In October 2015, I flew into Guatemala on a one way ticket, not knowing what the hell I was doing. I didn’t even know how long I was going to last here. I came here naive, scared and excited.
Over 3 years later, still here and I’m home. I don’t know if I’ll die here but I know this is where my heart is and where I belong.
I came down here very open minded, ready and willing to accept all the unique cultural differences. I was just as ignorant as most tourists or foreigners when they go to a new country. I knew nothing and had much to learn.
The one thing I did learn, quickly, was this is their country and their culture. I wasn’t coming down to change anything, I was coming down to help as best I could and take in some beauty at the same time.
I’ll confess, there definitely were a few things I had a really hard time with at first, but I’m over them. That’s just the way life is down here iva, get used to it. So I did.
One thing, ironically, that has been getting on my nerves lately is tourists and the ignorance they have when they come and visit. It reminds me of what I was like, sort of, over 3 yrs ago when I first got down here.
I overhear so many rude comments and it makes me cringe. I wonder if I was like that when I first got down here. I sure hope not. I was completely ignorant towards a lot of things but I’m pretty sure I voiced my disgust about them alone at home.
Tourist Etiquette 101
Anyway I want to take this time to educate you a teeny bit. A sort of ‘Traveler’s Guide to Central America’ if you will. First things first, before you get down here, read up a little bit about the place you are going to visit.
Make sure you read all the good and bad. I will be referring to Guatemala here, but this little guide can apply to just about any third world country.
One thing to keep in mind, the bad is usually ten times worse than what the book tells you. For example, if it says there are stray dogs, know that there are definitely stray dogs, a shit ton of them.
And speaking of dogs….
If you don’t like dogs, don’t go visit places that clearly tells you there are stray dogs. Know what comes with stray dogs? Dog shit. And lots of it. On the streets, on the sidewalks, maybe even at your doorstep. It’s everywhere. If it’s not your thing, at all, don’t come here.
This is a poor country. They don’t call it the third world for nothing. Poverty is ridiculously high and beggars are everywhere. And they can be aggressive. If poverty makes you uncomfortable, don’t come here.
Be prepared to be bombarded by sellers and beggars. They think you are rich and expect you to give them money or buy their things. If this bothers you or you know you will be extremely annoyed by this, don’t come here.
Though it’s not too hot down here, sometimes the sun, walking, dog shit and other small random things will get on your nerves. Tempers may flare. You may get annoyed over little things. Don’t take it out on the locals.
Be patient with the people and the people who are with you. Culture shock is a real thing. Google it and find out about it. You may not be able to handle it or you may discover that you’re not that great of a traveler. If you don’t have patience and can’t handle cultural differences, don’t come here.
If you are open to all the wonders and beauty of different countries and truly desire to learn more and immerse yourself in a culture so completely different from yours, come here.
Keep an open mind
Despite the fact that this is an extremely poor country, there is so much beauty to see, things to do and history to learn about. Don’t come down here as a tourist, just to buy silly little trinkets and snub your nose at the culture and the people.
Come down here to learn how and why they live like they do. Take some time to talk to a local about the history of the area and the people. Read books on the good the bad and the ugly, you’ll be better prepared and have more of an understanding of why the people are the way they are.
One thing traveling in a third world country will do for you is make you appreciate all you have, the life you live and the have more empathy for those who don’t have half of what you have.
It may even change your world. Some people find their purpose when they’ve visited third world countries. There is much to learn and tons of growing to do when you….
take some time to stop and smell the dog shit.
Peace and Love
xo iva xo