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Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Travel Tips - packing my way

Packing Tips.

Packing as everyone knows takes time and practice.

My trip was somewhat defined, yet I wanted to travel with an open ended schedule rather than something fixed.

In my first trip to Central America I was going away for an undisclosed period of time knowing it could be up to six months in duration. That fact alone made packing and what to take, how to take it, what to carry it in, all a daunting task. 

I was not going to be staying in any luxury hotels where someone else carries your bag or there would be an elevator present. I was most certainly sometimes going to be in hostels and possible renting an apartment as well. But I just didn't know. When I travel, I plan so far ahead and leave some details to fall into place for themselves.

I needed to be versatile. I was going to Guatemala for a month followed with a trip south to Nicaragua and who knows where else.

I had two choices. 
Well maybe there where more than two choices, but there were two main choices.

One was to pull my very large rolling bomb proof world travelling suitcase with me. Or two, carry what I thought I would need in two packs, one on my back and the other on my front. 

That sounds heavy and uncomfortable I know, but what actually happens when you carry two bags this way, they counter-balance each other. The big bag on my back would become balanced and seeming more comfortable with the one on my front.

You have to experience that to really understand what I mean, but it does work.

Both system of travel, the rolling bag and the backpack bag system both have great advantages and both have some problems.

The rolling bag would hold so much more, but did I want to be hauling and pulling it everywhere, even though the wheels are what they call skateboard wheels. These wheels are rugged and able to take a lot of abuse. They are totally different to spinner suitcase wheels which are designed for smooth surfaces. 

I knew the roads and sidewalks would be somewhat rough. But there maybe sand or earth or rough gravel to deal with as well.
Dragging a heavy bag over that would be a nightmare. 


Spinners are suitcase bags usually hardshell with four wheels instead of two wheels. They are great for airports and hotel lobbies, but not much else. Spinners are easy to handle as they glide easily
in airports or places with smooth sidewalks or smooth surfaces roadways or some sidewalks. 

Where I was headed Spinners would be a nightmare.
I have seen people trying to get spinners moving over rough ground. The wheels get easily torn off and sometimes will toss the bags away all together..

.Everyone takes too much stuff anyway, me included, so I opted for my backpack. My backpack is smaller and classified as a climbing pack as it is smaller than your regular backpack. It is a top loader so everyting has to be pushed in from the top, but it does have a waterproof zipper down one side for easier access to items stowed in the bottom. It also has what is called an expandable lid, which mean it can be expanded for more items.

Being a small pack I was now really limited to what I could take. My front pack was a carry on, that could be converted to a day-pack and yes not hold much. 

I was not going to carry a laptop, something I did regret later on. I had no room for a laptop anyway.
My plan was to actually write my journal long hand just like Ernest Hemingway used to write, dreaming with hopes of churning out some success in the process. The problem with writing it that paper gets very bulky after a while. You end up having more paper than the space that a laptop has.


My large bulky digital (Nikon) SLR camera, I would also leave behind along with that lightweight tripod I really wanted to take with me. 

I had picked up a cheap point and shoot digital camera and four SD cards. The logic behind four cards is that I would rotate them, so that if I physically lost one, well I would still have the others. 

I have seen some people and they have one huge capacity card and yes when they lose that card well then of course they lose everything.


Some people will place a lock on their bags or suitcases to prevent tampering at airports or on buses. At any border crossings if they cannot get into your bag they will cut that lock. So what I do instead of using a lock is to carry several Zip Ties. These are those plastic gadgets that slide into each other. They are used in automobiles under the hood in the engine compartment to keep wires tidy. 

That meant to me that if a border official needed to get into my bag (and if they want to they will) well the Zip Ties can easily be replaced. They can even be purchased locally in hardware stores and markets practically anywhere today.. even were I was going to, Latin America hardware stores.


I always carry a small sewing kit with me with a variety of sewing needles, pins and thread, a cloth measuring tape along with a small scissors. Feed the sewing needles through some stiff patching material and wrap them up so the points are protected. The best repair material for a quick fix is good duct tape.

You can also purchase duct tape in local hardware stores and marketplaces. There are different qualities to duct tape and I try to find the best quality to take with me. Duct tape can and does have an incredible number of repair uses. I also carry a small amount of electrical tape with me as well. 

Instead of taking a whole roll of duct tape or electrical tape with me what I do is I roll off a few of metres (yards) and wrap it around a water bottle.

Zip-Lock Bags

I also take lots of Zip-Lock plastic bags with me. They have such a variety of use. If it rains heavily and my pack gets a little wet, then the socks and underwear kept inside Zip-Lock bags inside my pack will be dry. My toiletries and first aid kit are always in a Zip-Lock bag. I keep one for my camera to keep it dry. I have used them as water carries, for snacks and yes you can always buy them locally.

Clothing options 

My clothes also had to be versatile. I knew that I had to plan for staying in several climate zones from arid hot highlands to tropical utopias. My clothes had to be both practical and versatile. 

I do a lot of shopping  at MEC, a Coop style equipment store in Canada for a lot of my gear and clothes. http://www.mec.ca/

I ended up with the following....  (trip # 1)

Five pairs of both socks and underwear fast drying.
Three short sleeve cotton shirts.
Two long nylon sleeves fast dry shirts with sleeves that could be rolled and buttoned up.
Three pairs of nylon pants fast drying.
One pair of cotton cargo pants.
One pair of nylon fast drying cargo convertible to shorts pants. 
One T-shirt, 
One zip tee shirt.
A rain jacket.
A full zip light fleece sweater.
One pair of sandals.
One pair of approach (running) shoes.
My heavy leather hiking boots.
One pair of lightweight fleece gloves.
One toque.
My Tilley hat.


Only the gringos wear shorts, unless one is in the hotter tropical areas. They are fine for the beach and those hot humid tropical resort areas, but look out of place in the interior cities and towns. You will be noticed when you don't want to be noticed. 

At higher elevations the UV rays are always extreme, so best to cover up. In the jungle areas again shorts are a no no, unless you enjoy being bitten to death. Bitten to death by more varieties of mosquitoes than I know about.


I like light weight approach shoes which are really below the ankle hiking boots. 

I also like the low cut hiking boots that support the ankles better than lower shoes. Sandals and the closed toe variety can also double as a shoe. Flip-flop sandals are a must and especially necessary in hostel showers that you share with strangers. You do not want to share anything they may have and are carrying about on their feet..

Any travel in jungle areas, you should be wearing just under the knee rubber boots. All the locals wear them. Their one intent is of rubber boots is to protect you against snake bites.

Cold days

A toque, a pair of gloves, a thin lightweight synthetic vest and things you can layer up with.... a pair of lightweight long-johns (yeah really) and don't forget your "hot water bottle.." 

My kit. 

My travel kit also included a pair of hiking poles, a combo first aid and personal care bag,  headlamp light, sunglasses and a whistle.

On my next trip this was modified and the heavy leather hiking boots (worn very little) would be changed for the weight of a netbook computer and my SLR camera. I would also take the tripod.

Since my next trip will be more centrally based, I will be planning on renting an apartment ($ 75 to $150 a month) and therefore I would be taking the rolling suitcase with a climbing pack tucked inside it. 

I will be taking the climbing pack to use on smaller trips such as a visit to El Mirador an incredible Maya ruin site in northern Guatemala.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/El_Mirador

There are always limitations wearing the same clothes over and over. Yes you do actually do get used to wearing the same clothes, but for practical purposes certain items wear out faster. I went through three pairs of pants and two shirts, all my socks, the T-shirt and my approach runners.


It is though, very cheap to buy anything in Latin American countries for most people. Many of the things you take with you can be purchased locally and and at a fraction of the cost or at home.

Check out Megapaca a sort of cross between Goodwill and Value Village... Clothing, footwear, household goods, furniture and all at incredible cheap prices... 

But being my height at 6'3" that made it impossible for me to buy any kind of shoes. 
I did though visit several tailors to find out what a pair of pants would cost for me, to be tailor made. I was shocked on how cheap it was.

Megapaca is a chain of used clothing mostly sent down from the USA is an excellent place to purchase clothing at a fraction of normal costs. Here I was able to buy shirts and pants...
I bought two shirts, a pair of pants, a pull-over style fleece sweater, two t-shirts and it cost me the equivalent of $5.00. 

The downside of shopping for me was my large shoe size at 13 or 46 European. I looked in countless markets and shoe stores looking for a fit. The fact is people in Latin America are just smaller and have smaller feet than I do. I think that most people generally have smaller feet than I do.

So next time neatly tucked inside my large rolling bag I will be taking a few pairs of spare shoes along. The only restriction is weight on planes, so light shoes.


Socks and underwear get tucked into shoes you're not wearing. Roll everything and pack that way, more gets in. Remember in packing, you will be wearing some of your clothing on that list. I wore the heavy hiking boots on the plane, to save space and weight.

Choose clothing wisely

The best type of clothing is wrinkle free, dries fast, wears well and has a high UV protection. 

High UV protection because at high elevation, the UV rating is always extreme. 

In Quetzaltenango or Xela you will be at an elevation of 2330 metres (7600 ft) and here you will need that extra UV protection. 

All of my shirts and pants as well as my Tilley hat, have a high UV protection rating.  http://www.tilley.com/

Clothes that dry fast are great for hand washing and drying over night.  Being caught in a sudden rain downpour (and you will experience this) , if your clothes are the fast dry kind of clothes the wind will dry them and you out, pretty fast. 

The broad brimmed hat I have been wearing for thirteen years now is made of nylon, wears exceptionally well, is water resistant, dries fast, has a safe UV rating and is guaranteed against loss (two years) and comes with a lifetime warranty (against wear).

I spent the majority of the time in Guatemala at a high hot elevation with an arid landscape, but when that rainy season hit it was really very wet. I purchased a cheap umbrella's locally and in the rainy season (May to October) that is a must. 


When I first arrived early in February the nights were cold not cool and where hovering around 4 to 5 degrees Celsius (40 F). I was glad to have the fleece jacket, toque and gloves with me. I also had a sleeping bag sheet liner which added some warmth in unheated rooms. I slept some nights under four wool blankets with just the top of my toque covered head peeking out.

I say the following with caution. Some things you actually do not need to take with you. If you do take these items, try getting smaller size containers. The reason is that they can be purchased locally and a lot cheaper.


You can purchase cheaper sun lotions, cold medicines most prescription drugs, soap, toothpaste, band-aides, shampoo, denture aids, etc and all a lot cheaper. The one thing that is difficult to purchase I found is an antihistamine (diphenhydramine) an allergy drug such as Benedryl. 

Buy a large supply or get generic ones before you leave.

Prescription Drugs.

If you run out of a prescription drug you are taking well all you need to do to replace that is visit a pharmacia (drug store). No doctors visit needed. In fact if you need any drug (except narcotics) all you do is ask for it and they give it to you over the counter. Well you do have to pay for it.


On a visit to Monterrico on the Pacific Coast side of Guatemala, I was bitten at least a couple of hundred times by mosquitoes. It felt like 2000 of the critters had bitten me, but it was probably just a couple of hundred. Two tabs of the allergy pills with a topical antibiotic cream applied to the bites and everything and that itchy sensation just vanished.
Mosquito nets are especially good in tropical locations and in most heavily invested places are supplied in hotels and hostels.

Cell Phones

I did not take an alarm clock with me or a cell phone. I purchased an inexpensive pay-as-you-go cell phone that came with an alarm, camera, the works. The cell phone structure there down south is very much cheaper than here in Canada. Texting is even cheaper. 


I tried to take clothing that looked neat but not flashy. I dressed down, made my pack look older and even stuck a strip of duct tape to my pack to make it look like it was damaged. I wore a cheap watch and no jewelry.

Be discreet

While most people are honest, you have to realize that you are travelling or living in a very poor country and the expensive watch, or gold chain or high tech camera or electronic toy you have with you is worth more than most people earn in a year. So travel discreetly.


I believe that Guatemala is safe to travel and live in. Danger is always present in any large city in any country. 

I never carried a lot of money on me. ATM's are everywhere. I was always aware of people around me.
Money belts and dummy wallets do not work. If someone wants your cash, they will take it, period. It is better to just give it to them, so don't carry a lot of cash on you. For one thing you will not need much on you.

I never carried a wallet ever. I always carry a small locally made zippered closure purse that I carry my cash in. Some people carry what is termed a dummy wallet. A dummy wallet may have some out of date credit cards or debit cards and a small amount of money. If you think that will work, think again as it will not! Thieves in any country are not stupid and they will treat you worse if you try to fool them. 

Don't invite violence into your trip.
Carry very little cash at any time and if for some reason you have an unfortunate experience of being robbed, give the thief what they want. 

You life's not worth losing... 

Hold-all wallet

When I first went to Guatemala I carried both a money belt and a nifty hold-all wallet. The hold-all wallet had a place for everything... my passport, my wallet, my money, credit cards, debit cards, the works. A nice tidy and organized package. The problem here is, that if you lose that or someone takes it from you, you lose everything. It is better to split everything up...

Keep money in different places on you in different packages. If you have to travel with your passport and credit, debit cards put them in different locations on your person.

Going Out

I was told to not go out after dark. Since it gets dark at about 6:30 pm every day that was going to be difficult. 

If I went out for the evening I never carried much cash on me. I would carry small amounts of cash in several pockets and once I even put some in my sock. I also always carried a coloured scanned copy (not a photocopy) of my passport on me and left everything else locked up where I was staying. Photocopies fade and are affected by heat. Scanning while more expensive is more permanent.

The one thing to note here is that I never had any problems at all.
I never once have ever felt physically threatened.


Whatever your own personal choices are for travel, what you think you need to take with you, that amount can usually be cut in half. It does though all depend on how long you are going to go for. If you you will be travelling all the time, you will need a smaller pack or bag unless you really enjoy lugging a heavy load bag about all the time.

If you will be located with a fixed base you may need additional gear.

Remember you should leave some space in whatever your baggage is, for all those wonderful and incredible bargains your eyes will be screaming out for. Of course you can always mail them back home.

Dress smart, pack well, travel light, have fun and enjoy the land of trees, the land of eternal spring.....enjoy Guatemala. 




Sunday, 10 July 2011

Guatemala an Amazing Travel Experience

For an Amazing Travel experience
my way

Last year I took an amazing eye opening trip into Guatemala.  
Aside from what I saw and experienced which was incredible
what happened to me....

Changed the person I was, to the person I am today.  

Changed me and for the better. 

The original purpose of my trip last year was to gain a language and then to travel further south into Nicaragua where I was planning to volunteer working with children. Plans changed as I fell in love with a country and its wonderfully warm people. Plans changed as I was allowed to experience unconditional love. 

Now I am going back into Guatemala... 
Care to join me?

What I am going to do is offer a small select group of people the chance to be involved with me on this trip to this enchanted land

To travel and to experience with me a special trip into Guatemala.  

Taking advantage of my experience and research, 
Experience the trip of a lifetime and have fun.
This is NOT a tour.

If your plan is to study Spanish, I know the best Spanish language schools to attend. I also know top quality teachers that offer private tuition and I can refer you to these people.

I will offer you advice on what to take with you, how to pack, what to pack, options of baggage, what can be taken there and what can be purchased there so much more...and how very inexpensive it is to live and to experience this wonderful place. 

I am not a travel agency, or a tour operator. I was though involved in the hospitality business (hotels and resorts) for many years so understand the importance of excellent customer service.

In Guatemala I know people in the tour business and have personal connections with these people. These people are not only awesome but being Guatemalan they have a much greater advantage over other tour operators based in the USA or Europe with no personal connection with this wonderful country.The local tour operators offer substantially cheaper rates as well.

What I am is just a traveller and a person that connects easily to people regardless of language and cultural differences.

We will meet in San Cristobal de la Casas http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/San_Cristobal_de_las_Casas which has many hotels and hostels that cover all budget levels. I do have an excellent relationship with a hostel operation there. La Gite Del Sol .The accommodation I had last year included my own clean room with washroom for $20.00 US per night (depending on the season). The stay also included breakfast. The owner, a Canadian from Quebec married to a Mexico lady offer top quality customer service. I worked in this business and I can honestly say that what they offer in San Cristobal stands apart from the rest. 

San Cristobal is a charming city and deserves time for a visit. There are some incredible Mayan ruins a short distance away. San Cristobal also offers a its own special feeling. It is unique and has been designated a Pueblo Magico giving the tourist and visitor that magical feeling by being there. It is considered the cultural centre of the state.

This Guatemala Amazing Travel experience I want you to share with me, will depart from San Cristobal using a shuttle service (all arranged for you) cost approximately $35.00, south into Guatemala crossing at La Mesilla. The border crossing at La Mesilla is pretty straight forward with the whole process taking about 30 minutes depending how busy it is. At the border a stamp is placed in your passport which gives you a 90 day visa stay. If you want to extend your stay this can be accomplished in two ways. One will involve a visit to Guatemala city and involves a two day process. The other is to leave what is termed the C-4 group of countries (Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua) for a period of 72 hours. Most people take a short trip into Mexico. Other options would be Costa Rica, Belize or Cuba. I know of some people that do this for years, a condition that seems to be tolerated.

After crossing through the border we take another shuttle bus down travelling through and into Guatemala land of eternal spring, to our destination, Quetzaltenango.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/quetzaltenango Quetzaltenango, or Xela (shey-la) as the locals call it, is known as the cradle of culture with five universities, some 30 technical schools and as many Spanish language schools. Xela is home to 300,000 mostly indigenous Maya people who wear their traditional and colourful clothing everywhere.  

Why Xela and not Antigua?
I originally chose Xela as my base and still do because Xela does not cater to English speaking tourist as Antigua does. Therefore if learning Spanish is your aim, Xela is a far better choice with less chance of meeting and speaking English. Antigua http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antigua_Guatemala though a beautiful colonial city deserves a visit as do so many other places. Xela is an excellent starting off point for many other adventures in Guatemala.

Travelling alone is not for everyone. I was warned about travelling alone and that I should not travel Guatemala as it was a dangerous country. Undeterred I went anyway.Yes it was still a little unnerving at times even with all my plans. Guatemala (Land of the Trees)  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guatemala has endured many conquests including an invasion from the Spanish as well as a 36 year civil war that ended in 1996. Despite its past, I found it to be a country of amazing qualities. It has a people that while are so though terrible poor, they are so very rich with pride. 
You can read and read endlessly about what to do and what not to do, but the actuality of being there is very different. Faced directly with an awkward situation is very different than reading it about it in a book or brochure or online. What is extremely important to understand are the traditions and the customs and the etiquette of the land. Without this knowledge it could be difficult or even dangerous for you.

Having lived in Guatemala makes such a difference now. Just knowing the people who live and work in Guatemala gives me an amazing advantage. When you live as a local and not as a tourist, allows you to experience life on a different level.  I gained wonderful friendships that I still keep in contact on Facebook http://www.facebook.com

Most importantly I have gained that savvy and knowledge of the people that all combine to make a future trip both safe and more rewarding for myself and those that travel with me.

My own personal strategy for returning to Guatemala includes a housing project. Here I am working alongside a group of prominent professional people to accomplish this. Our shared passion is to create housing that is not only sustainable but safe for those that cannot afford this. Another project that I offer  support to is a Montessori school, that has recently opened in Xela. http://micasitamontessori.wordpress.com

There are many Tour operators offering group travel to Guatemala. With my present knowledge of the costs of staying and living there, I am appalled what some tour operators charge. They offer trips crushed into one week as tourists are rushed from one hotel to another hotel and never being allowed to really experience Guatemala for what it is. They will visit a market town such as Chichicastenango (Chi Chi)http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chichicastenango, the Maya ruins in Tikal http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tikal, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lago_de_Atitlan Lago Attilan and before they know it these people have left on their plane ride home. 

No one can see any country in a week.  

No one can experience Guatemala in a week. 

Typical pricing examples you may experience in  Guatemala are the following.
It is not uncommon to find Hotels ranging in pricing from as low as $11.00 a night in Xela.

Hostel pricing from $ 3.00 up per night per person is typical. I paid $100.00 a month for a fully furnished room in a shared apartment with maid service, full kitchen, hot water showers, Wi-Fi and TV, 24 hour security, all close to the city centre. A one bedroom fully furnished apartment can be had for as little as $150.00 near the city centre. 

Home Stays range in pricing from $40.00 and up per week,your own private room with three meals a day six days a week. They are with Guatemala families where it is a great way to improve your Spanish language with total immersion.

Spanish Language Schools vary in pricing anywhere from $100.00 to $250 per week. Each school will offer a one to one teacher to student ratio, five hours a day for five days. Some schools offer more in the way of social activities like field trips, cooking classes, salsa dance classes, as well as volunteering opportunities, etc. All the schools will encourage students and teachers to experience not just the class room setting but also to take the lessons to the streets. There are also private Spanish language teachers available. Private teachers rates start at $5.00 per hour. All Spanish language teachers are university trained.

Meals will vary from simple street food at Q5.00 (65 cents) to Q100.00 (12,00) for a simple meal for two.
You can always pay more as Xela offers a variety of restaurants with ethnic foods from many countries as well as several fast food outlets operations, just like you would find at home. There are also many traditional eateries offering true Guatemala fare. Or you can also visit street markets like democaricia or minerva and barter for food at incredible low prices. When I first did this, I wondered if I was being cheated or not, but did not worry as the costs where so low anyway. Later I enjoyed the barter process which is all a party of living in Xela.
Transportation by Bus. Guatemala offers more than one level of first class travel service including the luxury three seat across variety which are truly heaven. The luxury buses in Guatemala are far better than those found in the USA or Canada and certainly very inexpensive in comparison. For example a trip on a first class bus from Guatemala City to Xela is $10.00.

Shuttle Bus travel will range in price according to where you are travelling to of course.The trip from San Cristobal in Mexico to Xela in Guatemala (6 hours) costs between $35 and $40 dollars. From Xela to Panajachel costs $30.00. My route out of Guatemala last year on really wonderful luxury bus travelling from  Xela to Belize City (over night trip) cost me $60.00.

Chicken Buses are the cheapest and the best way to communicate with the real people of Guatemala. For tourists they are a must do and fun experience. Chicken Buses are actually older school buses from the USA that are used as the basic form of transportation in Guatemala for the people. They are wildly and garishly  painted and dressed in bright chrome, play loud Latin music and have drivers that all must be training to become race drivers. The prices vary but you can easily figure on a cost of  1/3 the price of a shuttle bus. Another great way to practice your Spanish.

When I went from Xela to Panajachel on Lago Attilan it cost me only Q35.00 ($4.25). The boat trip across the lake (chicken boats as we Gringos call them) from Panajachal to San Pedro a  (30 minutes crossing) should cost you Q30.00 ($4.25). The boats have no particular schedule and go when they are full.. They also drive very fast. On the chichen boats there is a tier system so do not be surprised if you are sitting next to a local person who has payed a lot less than you. To assure that you only pay the Q30.00, do not give large bills but give the correct change only, assuming the mannerisms of someone who has travelled this way before, or you could be paying more still. Argue if you have to.

You do not need me to do this trip. 

But if you are someone that wants a little help along the way, then travel with me.... it all makes everything easier.

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Guatemala and Senior Gap Years

The land of Eternal Spring

I am here again in 
and it feels right for me



This could be

Gap years are not
not just for students.
Gap years can be for anyone
Gap years can even be for us older folk as well

You have worked all your life for your family and children 
You have put in extra time for everyone but yourself.

There are many ways to spend retirement years. 
For some trips will do like... RVing or cruises, or luxury trips to exotic places..All fine, all great.

Or people can go to a developing country volunteering giving of themselves for other people.

Hola I am Gavino as I am called here in Guatemala.

I retired a few years ago and well yes, I just kept on working didn't I.... Why not?  The economy had really changed, then like a lot of other people, I found myself being laid off. 

The question that came to me then was.... 

Was I unemployed or was I retired? 
It did not take too long
too figure out that one.

 The economy was on a real nasty nose dive... and I  needing somewhere to go.. I needed a change.. something to do. Costa Rica seemed a nice option and I could always do some volunteer work to pass the time.

What I discovered was that

Volunteering is about attitude. 
You do not do volunteering to pass the time.  
You volunteer to help.

A volunteering fact: 
There are companies that are disguised as charities and that their only purpose is to remove money from your pocket and not to really do any real good.  

These are a business' making money on someone esle's misery or on poverty or on disasters. Some will charge you thousands of $$$$ to volunteer with them.

There is a lot of money to be made in disaster work, or poverty.

So I did some research.. 
and found this

Quatzaltenango or "Xela" (shay-la) as the locals call it, is the cradle of culture here in Guatemala. The city is home to about 300,000 people half of which are of an indigenous people. It also has ten universities, some 30 trade schools and as many language schools. 

Guatemala I discovered is the least expensive place to learn espanol and the easiest. It is the easiest because the people speak slower than in other Latin countries.

Xela is the best place to learn Spanish because it does not cater to English speaking tourists such as Antigua does.  Ask anyone and aside from the antique sculptured architecture of Antique, it is a boutique city that is vastly more expensive than Xela is.  

Xela sits at an elevation of 2330 metres (7655 feet) at its lowest point. Being a hilly city some elevations are close to 2400 metres.

Xela offers a sub-tropical highland climate. In the dry season (October to may) it has cool nights and warm sunny days. The coldest months are between October to February. The nights can be as cool as 4 deg C with average daytime highs in the mid 20 deg C.

If you are in Xela and looking to find the right volunteer group for you, check out Entremundos http://www.entremundos.org
Entremundos is an NGO (non-government organization) that supports other local community NGO's in Guatemala.

Volunteering and helping people is an amazing experience. It will open your heart and allow you to experience life in a very different way. It will change you and for the better... 

So before you run off with high hopes of helping other not so well off people in developing countries, do a little research and then you will be ready to do a lot of good.  

Or you could learn a language..... 

Take some Spanish language courses
Learn a culture
Get involved

There are many language schools 
in Guatemala.

Learning Spanish can be fun
a social event 
 an enjoyable pastime

Not having even a little of the language 
means you miss out on so much about the country. 
Spanish language 
classes are necessary for the basics.
Practice what you learn 
In the market
Riding on a chicken bus  
In the streets
Most importantly 
have fun....
after all
Senior folk
this could be
Gap Year..


Being here in Guatemala for the second time

Is a trip of 
for me.
Get involved

 This is all about you having
a meaningful and a rewarding and 
interesting experience.