I talked to Laura of Grassroots Nomad about her experience being an expat and volunteering in Guatemala City. Laura is originally from Sydney Australia, but temporarily calls Guatemala home. I highly recommend checking out her website, especially if you are interested in responsible travel or volunteering abroad.
Why did you decide to move to Guatemala?
I am volunteering at a rescue shelter for girls who are victims of human trafficking or sexual violence. This is a really important issue for me and I previously worked in counter trafficking in Bangkok so I was keen to learn about the Central American experience.
What do you love about living in Guatemala?
The people here are so friendly! Everyone is willing to help you and make sure that you always feel welcome. The country itself is spectacular and there are so many beautiful places to visit and explore.
What is not so great about living in Guatemala?
I have to admit that I really am getting sick of eating beans and eggs!
What do you do for a living there & what was the job search process like?
I’m volunteering at the moment so the only income I get is from my freelance writing. Finding responsible volunteer work is quite difficult but there are some tricks! Because I’m passionate about counter-trafficking, I read a lot of journal articles about the subject. I always check the footnotes to see which organisations were interviewed on the ground and then I research them. That’s how I found my current placement. I wrote about how to find responsible volunteer work here.
How was the visa process?
Because I’m not getting paid, I’m able to come on a 90 day tourist visa. That means I get adventures every three months! 🙂
What is the cost of living like?
When I was learning Spanish in Xela I was amazed at how affordable it was. I was getting 20 hours a week of one on one lessons, a homestay and all my food for USD145 a week! Now I’m in Guatemala City it is more expensive because it is a much more dangerous city. I have to get a taxi to and from work each day and rent is more expensive as well.
Would you like to stay there long term?
I have to admit that I will be ready to leave once my placement is up! I’m finding living here much more challenging than I expected and while I love the challenge, I’m also looking forward to going somewhere a bit easier for a while!
What are your fave traditional foods that we should definitely try if we go?
I love some of the street tacos that are around. Ceviche is really popular but it isn’t really my thing. The best way to get a feel for local food is by doing a homestay. My Guatemalan parents are amazing cooks!
What are some places we should definitely visit?
Don’t miss Xela or Guatemala City. People seem to just go to Antigua and Tikal but there is so much more to see. Guatemala City isn’t too dangerous (some areas are) and there are lots of amazing things to see here like museums and galleries, bars and restaurants. Xela is a beautiful city in the mountains. The people are friendly and welcoming and there are some great hikes in the surrounding areas.
What are some things about the culture we should know before going?
Prepared to be overwhelmed by how friendly everyone is!
Would you recommend it to other people who are interested in moving abroad?Yes! Even if it is just for a short time, Guatemala is a wonderful country to live in!
Be sure to check out Laura’s adventures over at Grassroots Nomad and follow along with her on social media.
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