In 2012, I left an abusive relationship with the clothes on my back, my car, and my canary. I was broke and broken, terrified and alone. At 52 years old, I was concerned for my future. Very concerned. I knew that something in my life had to change. Nothing was going right, and it was time to take drastic measures.
In a nutshell, this is what happened:
- Left my abusive relationship
- declared bankruptcy
- went back to my old hairstyling job
- started my healing journey
- decided there was more to life than what I had been living
- started my total life overhaul
- became a freelance writer/hung up my cutting shears
- bought a one-way ticket to Guatemala
- and never looked back.
Obviously, there were a million more things that happened, but that’s the gist of it all. There’s a whole story here if you want to know more.
My Big Move
I’ll be honest. When I moved to Guatemala, I was sure it was only going to be for 6 months. A place to hide out while my town in Northern Ontario suffered through winter. I had planned to return in May and then, the following October, head to another warm and sunny locale for 6 months.
That never happened.
I should take a minute to note here that this move was big and scary. I had never embarked on a solo journey of this magnitude before. I knew no one, I didn’t know the language (Spanish), and I was filled with anxiety and fear.
But deep down inside, I knew this was the right thing for me to do.
Home is Where the Heart Is
After 6 months of living in Guatemala, Panajachel to be exact, it was clear to me that this was now home. I couldn’t even imagine moving back to Canada for a million reasons, but I’ll share 10 reasons why I’m staying in Guatemala and why it is a place I now call home.
Every day in my new little town stirred my heart in more ways than one. I couldn’t believe such beauty, freedom, and magnificence existed, and I was a part of it.
10 Reasons I’ve Made Guatemala My New Home
These are in no order of importance. Simply just a few reasons, I will live in Guatemala and never return to Canada. I should say that I don’t hate Canada. I don’t hate my home town. It’s just not a place for me anymore.
1 Cost of Living
You can’t deny the cost of living in Canada (and possibly the US) has skyrocketed in the last few years. One-bedroom apartments are no longer affordable. House prices are ridiculously high. Food prices have gone up. Everything is going up. It’s not to say that prices haven’t increased here in Guatemala, but it’s still very affordable. My brand-new one-bedroom apartment costs me $550 a month. Here’s a small breakdown of some of my costs:
- electricity $40/mth
- groceries $200/mth (or so)
- internet $50/mth
- water $10/mth
- gas (for cooking and showering), $25 for a 25-gallon tank that lasts me 3-4 months
- gas for my scooter $25/mth
- gym membership $40/mth
So you can see. It’s pretty affordable to live here.
2 The Weather
I am so not a winter girl. I was born and raised in Northern Ontario, where temps dip below 40°C and snow banks can get as high as your house. Winter driving was white-knuckled as roads were treacherous.
I was so done.
The weather here is usually between 21-27°C daily, cool in the morning and evening, and perfect in the afternoon—every day.
3 The Fresh Food
Fruits and vegetables that aren’t shipped from thousands of miles away. They are locally grown, fresh, sweet, juicy and affordable. A nice-sized pineapple will cost 85 cents CDN, and half a dozen bananas, the same. And the variety of fruits constantly amazes me. New and wonderful fruits come into the season every month.
The market is full of life and color and just about any imaginable fruit, veggie or thingy you need. It’s all there.
4 The People
I’ve done my fair share of traveling, and I have to say, hands down, that Guatemalans are the nicest people I’ve ever met in all my travels. They are friendly, warm, sincere, and very welcoming of foreigners.
They are also very patient and helpful. The kids are too cute for words and have no problem talking to strangers, which leads me to number 5.
5 It’s Extremely Safe Here
Many people still think that Guatemala is one of the most dangerous countries in the world. It’s not. There is a high murder rate, but they don’t tell you that a large percentage of the murders that happen are domestic violence incidences. Husbands killing their wives. There is petty crime in the city, but you’ll find that in any city around the world.
The biggest danger I have in my small town is getting stung by a scorpion (which, by the way, has already happened twice, and I’m still alive to talk about it) or bit by a stray dog.
6 Affordable to Travel to Other Countries
It’s pretty easy and affordable to hop on a plane and check out other Central American countries close by. Mexico is a drive away, depending on where you are in Guatemala. Feel like heading to the Pacific? It should take you only a few hours to get there. And you can go all year round. Not just in the summer.
Wonder what Belize, Honduras, or Nicaragua are like? Book a short flight and see for yourself!
7 Travel is Cheap
Travel from town to town, that is. You have many options to choose from. If you have a 1-5 hour trip, you might want to take a chicken bus or shuttle. You can get around in almost any town with tuks tuks or pickup trucks. I happen to live on a lake, and in order to get to the other towns around the lake, I have to take a boat. Here are the prices for travel (the currency here is Quetzales):
- in town, tuk tuks are 5Q or 85 cents CDN
- chicken buses up to 25Q are $4.30, depending on how far you are going
- boats 10-25Q
- pickup trucks 5Q
- shuttles 5-10Q (but don’t quote me on that)
- private shuttles to the city 800Q $135 CDN
And there are so many places to go and things to see and do around here. It’s awesome!
It’s hard to explain this one, but I’ll do my best to try. You’re free to be who you are, and no one judges you. While it should be like that everywhere in the world, sadly, it’s not. There’s no competition here to see who has the biggest house, the nicer car, or the most successful kids.
Everyone here is just happy to be alive and live how they want.
There is no judging, no finger-pointing, nothing like that. I told you it was hard to explain. You’ll just have to come down here and see for yourself.
9 Kids Playing on the Street
This probably should have been number 1. The sound of kids playing on the street is music to my ears. They aren’t attached to cell phones. Most don’t even have one. They run around, play ball, play whatever; they are everywhere, having fun like we used to before the internet.
And the kids are also very helpful here and will drop everything to lend a hand without question. Sometimes they’ll ask for 1Q, sometimes, they don’t.
10 Meet People From All Around the World
The connections you make here and the people you meet are all amazing. Most countries in Central America are home to many tourists, foreigners, and expats. Many have come for a visit and never left. And everyone has a story to tell.
You are surrounded by like-minded travel people. They get you, you get them. We think a lot alike. We share tales of travel and educate each other on faraway places.
It truly is dreamy. If I had to sum up life in Guatemala, that would be the one word I would use: dreamy. Some days, I still can’t believe I live here. I’m not going to say it’s perfect. It does come with struggles and challenges, but isn’t that what makes us stronger and helps us grow?
While I do miss my friends and family back home, I can honestly say I don’t miss life back in Canada and I can’t ever see myself returning there to live.