I finished my last class of Spanish and my week in Xela on a Friday afternoon. It was a bittersweet feeling. Saying goodbye to Xela, my class and my host family for the week proved harder than I imagined. Yes, it was only a week. But the week was way too short and quite frankly, not enough time. It felt like just as I was finally fitting in and understanding the world around me, it was time to go. Plus I knew in my heart that even just another week would have greatly improved my spanish. Seeing how much I had gone in a mere week was astonishing. I realized that true immersion is far better than any college course. It is the only way to go.

I returned to my home away from home to say goodbye to my host family. They were disappointed that I was leaving so soon and had wanted me to go to the beach with them for the weekend (the Pacific Ocean is only an hour and a half away from Xela). But my schedule was tight and I felt fortunate that I was able to come to Guatemala in the first place, even if it was only for nine days.


Photo of me and part of my host family inside their makeshift cafe that they ran in their attached garage.

My ride picked me up at the house a little after one and I said my goodbyes and thank you’s to the family and was on my way. I would take a car transfer for an hour and a half where we would meet up with the Adrenelina Tours shuttle service in another town to combine passengers and continue on to Antigua. Little did I know, it wouldn’t be the relaxing ride I was expecting.


Leaving town. Always more chicken buses for me to capture on film!

As we left Xela, I saw once again that gorgeous view of the lush valley surrounding the town. It was the same road we took into the city on Sunday night when I arrived into Xela as the sun was setting. It looked just as beautiful as when I arrived. I realized what a special place it was. I felt so lucky to have had the opportunity to live there as a local for a week!


View pulling out of town.


More of the gorgeous countryside that feeds the people and us!


See that tall pointed volcano in back….that is Santa Maria, the one I climbed on Wednesday! No wonder why my quads still ached. It is pretty steep and dramatic.



Finally we arrived in the transfer town where we boarded a completely packed to the bone shuttle bus for the next leg of our journey to Antigua. Here the driver is tying our luggage on top. I felt bad about him having to deal with my big red suitcase. Oh well.

Once on board the shuttle, I realized with shock that we had at least 15 people jam packed inside. Since I get bad car sickness, I asked if I could sit more towards the front which would give me a lesser chance of throwing up. Everyone happily obliged. I was glad that I didn’t test out some of the local food at the pit stop (see picture below). One gal did try the chorizo and said it was ok. She admitted to having suffered Typhoid before. Not sure why she attempt eating street food again but she kept it down the whole ride.



I was hoping to sit back and relax. A bus trip can usually go one of two ways: Complete silence or complete party. I was completely mentally and physically drained at this point in the trip. But instead, our next three hours were full of talk and laughter. Everyone on the bus had a story. We were all from all over the world. It was the perfect place for me, being an extravert who loves learning about other cultures and lives.


View of volcanoes surrounding Antigua.

By the time we finally rolled into Antigua, an hour late, I was ready to be done. Yet, after a half an hour of the trying to find my hotel in the dark with a new driver, the fun wasn’t over yet. Everyone else was staying on board and continuing on another hour to Guatemala City where they would catch the overnight bus to Tikal (talk about a long trip). I didn’t want to keep the entire bus waiting just for me. Finally I got out of the bus, took a cab the five blocks to my hotel and settled in. I had a message waiting from my blogger friend Lucy. We had plans to meet for dinner. I was exhausted yet unbelievably excited to finally meet her. I had been following her blog for well over a year. We had never talked. Just emails. I could hardly wait. And, I wasn’t disappointed.

Stay tuned….next Guatemala post will talk about meeting amazing Lucy! We had a delightful time together in Antigua and it ended up being the highlight of my trip to Guatemala.


  1. Thank you so much Nicole!!! I was equally excited to meet you and wasn’t disappointed. Your energy and enthusiasm boosted me and kept me going so despite being sick I had a blast!!!

  2. Oh, I love that you got to meet Lucy. Sara and I are going to Nashville next week for my blogging friend Tori’s wedding–someone we have never met in person. It’s amazing the connections we make through blogging. I don’t know if you read Tori’s blog “The Ramblings,” but if you don’t, I think you would love it. She has had her readers help plan her wedding. I link to her on my post today, if you want to take a look. Tori is an amazingly gifted writer.

    Happy Easter/ Passover, my friend!


  3. Saying goodbye after having built a strong bond as well as sharing happy and fun memories is one hard and heart breaking moment. I know the feeling. I just said goodbye today to my family in the Philippines and I can never describe the sadness that I felt. Beautiful post with pictures that reflect a one unforgettable trip. Take care.

    1. Wow, how long were you there? I can’t wait to read your post. You are such a beautiful writer and I am certain that your family misses you dearly. Take care and thanks for commenting!

  4. I studied in Antigua, Guatemala for 4 months like 5 years ago!!!! I LOVE Guatemala. It has a part of my heart still!! The volcanoes. If you drive a little ways out of Antigua at night you can see Volcan de Fuego erupting. Such an amazing sight.

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