Antigua, Guatemala

Square One

My first thoughts after arriving in Antigua, Guatemala.

A year and a half ago I sat on a park bench in Berlin, crying. I was overwhelmed by it all. From being so far from home. From being alone. From the thought of long-term travel. I didn’t think I could make it for three months let alone 12 let alone 15. I just wanted to go home.

A few days ago, and really, the whole week before, I sat crying in my room. And on the couch. And in the bathroom. Terrified once again of the idea of being out on my own. Being in a foreign country where I didn’t know my way. Where I didn’t know the language. Where I didn’t know anyone. Despite the fact that I had traveled through Europe and Asia for fifteen months, fifteen months, after five months home I seemed to have forgotten what I was capable of. I wanted to cancel my plane ticket to Guatemala. I wanted to throw up. Constantly. The last thing I texted one of my friends before boarding the plane was, “I don’t want to go.” On my four hour layover in Mexico City I stared at the departures board and wondered if I could sneak onto the flight heading back towards Chicago.

Latte at Wormhole Coffee in Wicker Park, Chicago, Illinois

Piece Pizza in Wicker Park, Chicago, Illinois

Al's Beef in Chicago, Illinois

My last day in Chicago involved coffee at Wormhole, mashed potato and bacon pizza at Piece, a dipped beef from Al’s, and a general feeling of anxiety.

Yesterday, on my second day in Antigua, Guatemala, I sat on a park bench, crying. I couldn’t believe how beautiful the square was. How beautiful Antigua was. How the town seems to be the perfect mix of Spanish charm and Asian grit. I couldn’t believe that I had just come from my first Spanish lesson. How four hours of learning the language didn’t seem like much time at all. How I already felt like I knew more Spanish than French (and I took four years of French in high school…)


How amazing my life has become.

Antigua, Guatemala

Antigua, Guatemala

I thought to myself, “I never want to go home,” and, “why, again, did I get stuck in Chicago for so long?” Thoughts that came to me ever so much quicker this time around. Thankfully.

I sometimes wonder if travel will ever be easy for me. If the thought of leaving wherever it is that I am, wherever it is that I’ve grown comfortable, will not make me feel like vomiting for a week beforehand.

But at least I know now that once I’ve taken that step, everything will be OK. And, at least I keep pushing myself to step out of that comfort zone, no matter how much I want to puke in doing so.

Antigua, Guatemala

As I enter this next phase of my ’round the world adventure I do have one particular worry swimming in the back of my mind: money.

When I first left for Berlin I knew I had enough to do whatever I wanted for a year and not have to worry. But the money that I left with is long gone. I’ve halved what was left in my savings account to continue on in Central America. It was something I had to do. I couldn’t stop. But I know that when this money is nearly gone, I have to go home, get a job, return to a normal life. And that is scary. Especially when I sat down and wrote out where I want to travel and ended up with a four-year plan. To know that I can only afford about six months of that 48 month itinerary makes me anxious.

Of course, I do know that I’m blessed to have been able to travel for as long as I have and continue for as long as I can. I know that. But it’s still hard to know that I will probably have to stop before I am ready to.

Antigua, Guatemala

I’m going to try to work more while I travel. I started a little while in Asia, so I know that it’s possible. I just need to push myself to find more opportunities for web editing and design. My friend Alyssa and I have been talking about collaborating: she’d do the graphics, I’d do the coding. We’re currently working together on a not-so-secret project (hello, redesigning my online-life). So, we’ll see how it works out. But I need to press myself to find more jobs. I have to.

But, that’s just me rambling again.

I’m spending the next month here in Antigua, studying Spanish with a tutor four hours a day, five days a week. I’m hoping to get a good base for the language before I move on around Central, and hopefully South, America. I anticipate more tears ahead: whenever I have to leave this town, whenever I realize how amazing the world is, and, eventually, when I have to return home. And, eventually, when I leave again.

Hi, I'm Val. I spent most of my 20s in a standstill, unable to pick which path in life I wanted to take. I wanted the nomadic life of a traveler but also wanted the husband, the condo, and the kitten. Unable to decide which life I wanted more, I did nothing. When I turned 30 I’d had enough of putting my life on hold and decided to start “choosing my figs.” So, I quit my job, bought a one-way ticket to Europe, and traveled for three years. Now I'm back in Chicago, decorating my apartment in all the teal, petting my cats, and planning my next adventure.

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1 Comment
  • Cyn
    March 27, 2013at12:30 pm

    I leave in a week for Nicaragua for about 50 days of traveling solo – spending two weeks in Costa Rica. I just got back from a pretty quick two months in India, Thailand, and Cambodia but I was traveling with someone. I am super nervous as you were, and it doesn’t help I barely remember any of the Spanish I learned in high school and college. I hope once I am there I can be OK and comfortable as I was India and the other countries… But I am very nervous right now and question buying my plane ticket, which I need to do today! (procrastination to the extreme).

    Good luck with learning spanish, I’ll be taking a one week intensive course in Laguna de Apoyo, Nicaragua – first thing.

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