How To Plan A Backpacking Trip (Without Really Planning It)

Featured

I know that the title of this blog post might sound a little bit cryptic but read on, I’ll explain what I’m talking about. After having spent the majority of the last couple of years travelling, one question that I get asked a lot is- ‘how do you plan your backpacking trips?’ Well, I’ll let you in on a little secret: I don’t- at least not in the hostel booking, schedule planning kind of way anyway.

Here’s why I don’t plan my trips

I find planning boring

I know some people find that planning a trip is part of the fun- I hate it. Whether it’s booking accommodation, coming up with an itinerary or researching what to do in each place, I find it so tedious. In fact, sometimes researching a trip puts me off even going in the first place.

You can’t plan for the unexpected

Travelling is all about embracing the unexpected and you simply can’t plan for that. Who knows what hidden gems you’ll discover along the way, the people you’ll meet or the things that happen that are totally out of your control. Trying to stick to a rigid plan while backpacking is just going to cause you more hassle than it’s worth.

image

It’s better to follow suggestions from people you meet

One of the best things about travelling is meeting people that are doing similar things to you. This is great because not only do you meet like-minded people but you also get to hear all of their recommendations first hand. This is how you really discover those hidden gems while travelling.

It ruins the adventure

Lastly, planning trips totally ruins the sense of adventure for me. The thrill of backpacking is that it’s a journey into the unknown. A routine is non-existent, each day brings endless possibilities and you really get the chance to live in the moment. That’s what travel is about for me.

Here’s what I do plan

I know that turning up in a new country with virtually nothing planned might seem really overwhelming but trust me, it’s the best way to do it. Having said that, there are a few things that I do organise or at least research before I go. Here’s what.

The first few nights accommodation

I think that it’s practical and sensible to book your accommodation for the first few nights before you arrive. This is because wandering around looking for accommodation when you’ve just got off a long flight isn’t a lot of fun. It’s usually easy to extend your stay in person in hostels so I wouldn’t advise booking more than three days accommodation in case you don’t like the place.

How To Plan A Backpacking Trip (Without Really Planning It)

Looking at the weather

Before even booking your flights, I would advise to check out the weather. It’s easy to forget that ‘warm countries’ aren’t always warm and the last thing you want to do is book a trip in the middle of monsoon season or fly to a beach destination in the height of their winter.

The highlights

Once I pick a region or country to travel in, I’ll usually come up with a rough idea of some places that I want to visit. I like to do a little search before I go about some of the highlights in these places whether that’s beaches, cafes or hikes. Then I jot them down on a list for me to refer to when I’m away.

A Rough budget

I’m a naturally cautious spender so I don’t feel the need to stick to a strict budget or keep a note of all my spendings. Having said that, I do like to come up with a rough estimate of how much I’ll spend before I go. I do this by researching the average cost of accommodation, food, activities etc.  I then multiply this by the number of days I expect to be away, in order to make sure I have enough money for my trip.

Booking Flights 

Flights are the one thing that tend to get more expensive the later you book them so I tend to book the main ones as far advance as I can. By this, I mean booking any long-haul flights as well as any for countries that require proof of onward travel. (Some countries will not let you enter if you do not have a flight or a bus booked out of the country). Generally speaking, internal flights are ok to leave until the last minute to book.

How To Plan A Backpacking Trip (Without Really Planning It)

Obviously travelling without a plan doesn’t work for everyone. I understand that if you have restraints like a lack of time, a strict budget or even if you’re travelling in a group then it can be tricky to travel fully spontaneously. Even so, I urge you when you can, leave whatever you can to fate- You never know what surprises are in store for you.

Are you a travel planner or a travel winger? Let me know. 

Melbourne: The Best Cafes For 20- Somethings

FeaturedMelbourne: The Best Cafes For 20- Somethings

I thought that it was time for a bit of Melbourne-related cafe inspiration today and in particular, cafes that are great for 20-somethings. I know that there’s nothing more that my generation loves than spending all of our money eating and drinking but we’re very picky about where we go. It goes without saying that Melbourne with its endlessly growing choice of cafes, is a fantastic city to be a 20-something in, however with so many great cafes to choose from, it can be exhausting trying to choose where to go- especially before you’ve got that coffee in your system, right?

To help you out I’ve put together this list of my favourite cafes for 20-somethings in Melbourne’s CBD. These are cafes serving great coffee and food, with chilled staff, space to sit and work and most importantly, these are cafes that don’t feel imposing to go in to.

Here’s my list of the best cafes for 20-somethings in Melbourne’s CBD

Melbourne: The Best Cafes For 20- Somethings

V A C A T I O N  C A F E

1 Exhibition Street, Melbourne, 3000

Vacation is a really chilled, spacious and welcoming cafe in the heart of Melbourne’s CBD. It’s contemporary and bright decor makes it seem like it would be more suited at the beach than in the heart of the hustle and bustle of the city: hence the name I’m guessing. 

Melbourne: The Best Cafes For 20- Somethings

M R  T U L K 

32 Swanston Street, Melbourne, 3000

 Mr Tulk is probably my favourite cafe in Melbourne and it’s quickly becoming one of my regular haunts. This bustling cafe is located right next to the beautiful State Library (a place that everyone visiting Melbourne needs to check out) and its location, plus the fact it was named after the library’s first chief librarian, has transformed the cafe into a student hangout and an ideal place to work or study. If you’re after food then their house -made banana special is award winning- Just saying. 

Melbourne: The Best Cafes For 20- Somethings

B R O T H E R  B A B A  B U D A N 

359 Little Bourke Street, Melbourne, 3000

Brother Baba Budan is one Instagrammable Melbourne cafe for sure. This tiny cafe is tucked away on Little Bourke Street and has a really quirky decor with loads of chairs hanging off the ceiling. The baristas are super chilled and the coffee is fantastic. It definitely wins the cool for me.

Melbourne Little Rogue Coffee

L I T T L E  R O G U E 

12 Drewery Lane, Melbourne, 3000

This cosy little cafe is tucked down an alleyway and you wouldn’t know it was there if you weren’t looking for it. This cafe has such a chilled vibe and it’s the nicest place to spend an afternoon in the city. Little Rogue does great coffee but what’s it’s really known for are it’s matcha latte’s- in my opinion the best in all of Melbourne.

Melbourne: The Best Cafes For 20- Somethings

D U K E S  C O F F E E  R O A S T E R S

247-251 Flinders Lane, Melbourne, 3000

You know how I said that us 20 -somethings are picky when it comes to cafes, well you can rest assured that Duke’s really is one of the best in Melbourne. This well established cafe is really popular and it’s best to get there really early if you want to bag a table. Even if you do have a wait though, it’s worth it for a fantastic cup of their own roasted coffee and their huge cake and pastry selection. Great vegan options available.

Melbourne: The Best Cafes For 20- Somethings

J O U R N A L  C A F E

253 Flinders Lane, Melbourne, 3000

Journal cafe is about as Melbournian a cafe as you can get so it’s great if you want to feel just like a local. Journal is located in the city centre on bustling Flinders Lane in the same building as the City Library. It’s the ideal place to grab a bite to eat and a cup of coffee in the morning. The upstairs canteen is the best place to people watch from as its window seats overlook the crowds wandering through the busy Centre Place laneway. 

Melbourne: The Best Cafes For 20- Somethings

T U L I P  C O F F E E

7 Delgraves Street, Melbourne, 3000

I love Tulip Coffee so much. It’s a really tiny little place located on Delgraves Street right opposite Flinders Station and it’s absolutely gorgeous. The staffs are always welcoming, the atmosphere is always calm and the whole place is pink so it’s another place that is good for your Insta’s.

melbourne cafe brother baba budan

 

I’ve only just touched the surface of Melbourne’s coffee scene in this blog post but don’t worry, I’ve got plenty more time here to explore and copious amounts of coffee to drink. Keep a lookout for my next post where I’ll be exploring the cafes in Melbourne’s inner-city suburbs such as Cartlon, Fitzroy, South Melbourne and St Kilda. Any must visit cafe recommendations? As always, drop me a comment below.

Melbourne: What it’s really like to work on an Australian Working Holiday

Melbourne: The Best Cafes For 20- Somethings

I had mixed feelings when it came to the ‘working’ part of my Australian Working Holiday. After a few months of travelling down the East Coast of Australia, I was ready to work again, both mentally and financially. However I felt overwhelmed by the prospect of actually looking for work and I knew that once I had a job, the constant daily excitement that I had gotten used to in my travels would decrease- work is work after all.

I arrived in Melbourne with less than two weeks until christmas and was pretty resigned to the fact that I would not be able to find a job until the new year. However after a couple of days of making phone calls and handing out CVs, I’d managed to get a barista job and a paid marketing internship secured. Now after a few weeks, I’m fairly settled and I thought it was a good time to write a more insightful post about what it’s like to work abroad in Australia.

australia working holiday melbourne
Brighton Beach, Melbourne

Firstly, make sure that you actually want to work

I know to a lot of people, a year abroad in Australia sounds like the dream. However you’ll be surprised at the number of people who cut their trip short. When it comes down to it, the ‘working’ part of the trip is often a bit of a reality check for some people: the fun part is over (in some senses) and the hard bit begins. You don’t really hear about the travellers that didn’t really feel at home in Australia, however I have met plenty. Trying to find work in a new country presents a struggle and it can be really stressful, particularly if english is not your first language. When it comes down to it, a lot of travellers would rather go back to their jobs at home, where they have their friends and family around which is totally understandable- just make sure you know what you want before you come here. You only get one working holiday and it costs a lot of money. If you’re in any doubt then why not get a tourist visa first? It’s valid for three months and it’s a great way to test the water out first.

It’s a taste of independence

I’ve spent a lot of time backpacking over the last couple of years so I’m used to being fairly independent however the working holiday is entirely different. In the UK I live at home and have my friends and family around. In Melbourne, I’m on my own. I have to sort things out myself, get myself around the city, pay my rent, cook my own food and meet new people. It’s exciting and there are always new people around to do things with, plus I’m preoccupied with a whole city to explore. Coming to Australia has given me a taste of real independence and if I can set up a life on the other side of the world, then I can do it anywhere.

You will survive off $1 Seven-Eleven coffee

Working in Australia has been some of the most physically demanding work that I have done. In order to save up some money after paying rent, it’s hard to say no to shifts and considering that I am currently doing two jobs, I’m working most days. Unlike at home where I can go home and switch off, while I’m waiting to move into my shared apartment next week, I’m still in a hostel. This means that every evening after work (and each morning before) there are new people to talk to and there’s always something going on. Going out for endless cocktails seems like a good idea at the moment but it’s not so great when you have to be up for an eight-hour shift the next day. Seven-Eleven coffee is a necessity.

australia working holiday melbourne

Not every day is exciting

I have so many moments where I am so hyped to be working in Australia. Melbourne is my dream city and every day I am proud of myself for settling in here and finding work. However not every day is exciting. Some days I’ll just wake up, go to work and go to bed. It’s not because I’m depressed or I’m bored with Melbourne (anything but) but it’s because I know I have the time, and it would be physically impossible to do something significant every day for the next few months.

Staying in hostels can be hard

Staying in a hostel while I have been settling into Melbourne has its benefits and downsides. The plus side is that hostels are sociable so they are a good place to meet people who you can do things with. The downside is that people are always coming and going so it has been so sad having to say goodbye to people who I had gotten really close with.

People love a British accent

The cafe job that I have here is one of the hardest hospitality jobs that I’ve ever had but the customers are some of the nicest. What’s best is that I can’t count the number of times that I get compliments from locals on my english accent; compliments just for talking!  Plus my accent is a great conversation starter with all of the travellers and locals who come into the cafe. There’s always an interesting story, or two to hear.

img_2723-e1546681056752.jpg

It’s harder to save up money than I thought

The wages are fantastic in Australia, almost twice as much as at home in the UK actually, However saving up is harder than I had anticipated. At the moment I am staying in a hostel. This means that I am paying a crazy amount on rent, and because there’s always a lot going on, I’m also spending a lot of money on socializing. While soon I am moving into a shared apartment and will undoubtedly start saving some money, at the moment it’s hard to save up my wages especially compared to at home where I am living rent free and with free food. I’m not here to make a lot of money though. As long as my income meets my outgoing I’m pretty happy- it is a working holiday, after all, not either/or.

I hope that this post has given you some insight into what it’s like to work on a Working Holiday in Australia. I’m currently living my dream life in Melbourne. Yes some days are hard and sometimes I even question what I’m doing here but overwhelmingly I really love it here. I’m getting all of my creativity nurtured through my marketing and content writing internship (along with the experience of being in a modern city centre office with free food and Kombucha on tap!) Then I have the physical challenge and experience of making coffees and waitressing in a cafe, in a city known for its coffee culture.

At the moment I’m just taking advantage of having a hot January where days off can be spent at the beach, eating gelato by the river and going out in a vest top in the evenings. Even though I’m working, I’m still a traveller, I’ve just taken a little pit stop for a while.   In Melbourne, for the first time in my travels, I am in a new country and I don’t have to look for local recommendations in the area; I am compiling a great list of my very own.

You can read more about my work and travels in Australia here. 

 

A 20-Something’s Travel Guide to Noosa

travel guide Australia noosa 20 something

Think long and hard; What’s your favourite place that you’ve ever been to while travelling? Chances are it wasn’t a typical ‘bucket list’ destination or even somewhere that you’d particularly wanted to go before. It might be the dirtiest Asian city but for some reason you found yourself amongst the chaos, or it might be the smallest beachside town with nothing to do but the people you met there really made it special.

Great places aren’t just great because of what’s there: You might be in the most beautiful place in the world but for some reason you’re just not feeling it. That’s why one person might love a place and the next person hates it.  To put it in a nutshell, it all comes down to a place’s vibes at the time that you’re there and for me, there were no bad vibes in Noosa.

travel guide australia noosa 20 something

travel guide australia noosa 20 something

Where is Noosa?

Noosa is a small beachside town on Australia’s East Coast. It’s often referred to as Byron Bay’s classier sister so think, chilled bars, fancy restaurants, speciality cafes and bohemian style shops. What I really liked about the town was its natural beauty. The beaches are stunning and there’s a fantastic coastal walk and other walking trails that you can do so it’s the perfect balance of civilisation and escapism. I’m not going as far to say that it’s my favourite place that I’ve been to but it was a place that I really felt connected to, primarily because I went into holiday mode there so spending a few days walking, swimming and loosening my budget was a nice little break from just being a ‘backpacker’.

travel guide Australia noosa 20 something

travel guide australia noosa 20 something

Noosa National Park Coastal Walk 

There’s not really a lot to do in Noosa so I won’t write a whole, ‘things to do post’. But like I said, the coastal walk through the national park is fantastic and really worth doing: Don’t let the hot weather put you off. The walk is around 7k in length is paved most the way so it’s really easy to do in flip-flops. There are loads of lookouts and opportunities to stop along the way so bring your swimming stuff and some lunch and make a day out of it.

My highlights included Alexandra Bay which is a really lovely, long beach to chill on and also spotting wild dolphins swimming from one of the viewpoints. We had planned on going to the Fairy Pools too, which are little tidal pools that you can bathe in, but we somehow managed to walk past them and were too tired to turn around. Ce’est la vie.

travel guide australia noosa 20 something

 

travel guide australia noosa 20 something

Other suggestions for Noosa: 

Accommodation: We stayed in Nomads Hostel in Noosa. It was really good with a nice pool, bar/club and its only a 10 minute walk from the bus station and 10 minutes from the beach.

Veggie/vegan food: 

Grill’d: Grill’d do fantastic veggie/ vegan burgers with vegan cheese, mayo etc and it’s fairly cheap for food out.

Acai Brothers: I only stopped here for coffee but there grab and go acai bowls looked great for to take to the beach.

A taste of Spice: This restaurant didn’t look like much from its decor but it was such a hidden gem. It’s an Asian fusion restaurant serving takeaway and dine in food with really cheap prices. The veggie Pad Thai was one of the best I’ve had outside of Thailand.

 

A 20 Something’s Travel Guide to Magnetic Island

australia magnetic island 20 something travel

australia magnetic island 20 something travel My two months travelling down Australia’s East coast have been fantastic. We’ve seen: National parks, gorgeous beaches, wildlife (and a few wild nights out) however one place that really sticks in my mind is Magnetic Island.

Magnetic what? 

Before I came to Australia, I’d never even heard of Magnetic island, a small island located a ferry ride away from Townsville on the mainland. Me and my friend are awful when it comes to trip planning (it’s just so much more fun to go with the flow) so we just tend to ask other backpackers for recommendations as we go and a lot of people had said Magnetic Island was their favourite place so we had to go: Even the name sounded magical.

Magnetic island is known for its wildlife and it really lives up to its hype. Wild koalas, tropical fish, colourful birds, kangaroos and butterflies, for one tiny island, Magnetic Island packs in one hell of a lot of nature.

Although small, only 52 k in size, it’s still big enough that you need some form of transportation to get around. There is cheap public bus network in operation but what’s more fun is to rent one of the jeeps or the popular bright pink ‘Barbie cars’.

Renting a jeep 

We decided to rent the open top jeeps for a day with a few other people we’d met in our hostel. They are as my friend so poetically put it “a piece of s**t” but they are a hell of a lot of fun to drive. A lot of the roads in magnetic island are completely unmaintained and covered in massive potholes so the only cars authorised to go down them are the jeeps and even then you have to follow a strict 10k ban hour speed limit.

Magnetic island has some of the most beautiful beaches that I’ve seen in Australia with the best being at the end of the two limited access roads. Beautiful coves with pine trees and warm crystal clear water to chill in: Who needs a spa?

You don’t need to look far for wildlife on the island but for guaranteed sightings head to Geoffrey Bay where you can see the wild rock wallabies and feed them carrots or do the Forts walk to see wild koalas. There’s also a line of gum trees near Horseshoe bay that we saw koalas in too.

australia magnetic island 20 something travelaustralia magnetic island

australia magnetic island 20 something travel At the end of the day everyone heads to West Point for sunset. This spot is one of only three places in Australia’s East Coast that you can see the sunset over the ocean and sitting on the sand with a couple of ciders was the best way to end a magical day.

Where to stay:

There are only two hostels on Magnetic Island: Base and YHA. Both get booked up pretty quickly so make sure to pre book a few days in advance or you’ll be waiting in Townsville. We stayed in both hostels and I couldn’t fault either one.australia island magnetic travel 20 something

Base hostel

Base is the party hostel and is one of the only hostels in australia located directly on the beach. Try and coincide your visit with a monday evening so you can make it to the hostels legendary bingo evening which escalates into pure mad chaos and is so much fun.

australia magnetic island 20 something travel

YHA (Bungalow Bay Koala Village) 

YHA is a more chilled hostel that’s located in the rainforest and is a great place to spot wildlife. They even have wild koalas in the hostel grounds and they run ‘breakfast with the koalas’ on Wednesday, Friday and Sunday mornings where you can hold the koalas.

australia magnetic island 20 something travel

If you’re also planning a trip down (or up) Australia’s East Coast then I can’t urge you enough to visit Magnetic Island. If anything, Australia is all about wildlife and if there’s one place that you’re guaranteed to see it all, it’s in this wonderful place.

Wicked Campers Australia: Review and all you need to know

australia review wicked camper van

Wicked camper van review Australia: Cheap, budget camper vans

Doing a road trip in a camper van in Australia has been something that’s been on my bucket list for ages so when me and two friends decided to do that for a four day, three night road trip from Cairns to Cape Tribulation and back, I was beyond excited.

There are a lot of camper van rental companies in Australia, all of varying sizes, quality and prices. I’ve always dreamt of  driving around Australia in a little cream coloured Volkswagen van but sadly these are crazily expensive to hire. We ended up going for the budget option but by no means a boring camper van.

The company we decided to go with was Wicked camper vans. They mainly sell basic camper vans with crazy paint jobs.  The one we got had a whole load of hippy decoration on it, something about kind gizzard and the wizard lizard and something questionable about smoking pot on it: It’s a miracle we didn’t get pulled over by the police.

The best thing is that these crazy vans are actually the cheapest option when it comes to renting a campervan and we picked ours up for just $278 Aud (around £160) for three people and four days. One thing to bear in mind is that they don’t come with the tank filled up so your first stop might have to be for fuel.

australia,review wicked camper van

First things first, here are some things to bear in mind about Wicked Camper Vans 

Overall we were really happy with our van. For the money, it was really good value and we had a lot of fun driving around in it. The van wasn’t the biggest or the most comfortable for the three of us but for the four days it was ok, but I probably wouldn’t have wanted to do any longer.

Cooking

The camper van was really basic so there was no kitchen or toilet in it. Instead cooking is done via a portable gas cooker that Wicked supply you with. To my surprise the cooker actually gave out a lot of heat and we were able to cook some decent meals on it like pasta and curry. Wicked are generally able to supply you with your pans and enough plates, bowls and cutely are needed per person plus extra gas canisters.

Sleeping

The least comfortable thing about the camper van is sleeping. Rather than having a couple of fold down beds, the back of the van opens up into one big bed. You open this up by folding down the back seat and laying down the wooden planks and mattresses stacked up at the back. You can sleep three people especially if a couple of you are small but for three tall guys it would be a squeeze.

Australia review wicked camper van

Storage

The van has quite a few crates for storage behind and at the side of the back seat and there are also lots of trays at the back for pots, pans etc.

The extras

For an extra charge, Wicked also provided us with tables and chairs. This was so nice because then we could park up in camp sites and site around the van while we cooked our dinner. You are also able to sit on the roof of the van by climbing up on one of the stage blocks and grabbing the ladder from the roof. We sat here a couple of times for lunch. australia, review wicked camper van

Where to stay 

Australia is made for roadtrips and has loads of cheap and even some free camp sites dotted about. You generally can’t park in public places like car parks  or beaches over night as they often have signs  and you’ll probably want some facilities anyway like toilets. Download the wikicamps app to find free and paid campsites and caravan parks to stay in.

australia review wicked camper van
Cape Tribulation

Things to bring:

  • A torch: You won’t really want to leave the inside van lights on over night unless you want to run the battery down so it’s a good idea to bring a headlight or torch so you can see. A lot of campsites do have some form of lighting though.
  • Bedding: Wicked also don’t supply bedding so you may want to bring a sleeping bag liner although to be honest we found it so hot that we just slept on our sarongs.
  • Mosquito net: The biggest issue that we had at night was the heat.  Even if we put the aircon on at night for a bit, the car heated up virtually straight away. The only was to deal with it is by leaving the windows open. Of course wildlife is a worry so we covered the open windows with our towels but what would really be useful is a mosquito net if you have one.
  • Wet wipes: Wet wipes and something to dry you dishes with are also a good idea.
  • Food and drink: Make sure you stock up on lots of food before you start your roadtrip, especially if you’re heading to places like Cape Tribulation like we did as there aren’t any supermarkets past Port Douglas. The van comes with a cooler in it which we filled with ice and this lasted us a few days. The best things we bought were: Boxed water- like a wine box, you can sit this at the back of the van and refill your plastic bottle, dried pasta, rice, cereals and long life or plant milk and of course, Goon, (cheap wine in a box)  and an Australian backpacker essential.

Take a look at the Wicked Camper site for some more info: https://www.wickedcampers.com

 

G Adventures Central America Homestay Review

If you’ve read this blog before then you’ll probably know that I went travelling though Central America with G Adventures on their Central American Journey tour this spring. It was my first ever group tour and was something that I did because I didn’t feel confident travelling through the region solo. You can read about my experience here: Should You Do A Group Tour? G Adventures Central American Journey Tour Review .

Most G Adventures tours offer a one night homestay as part of the trip and ours was in a place called San Juan La Laguna, a small village located on the edge of Lake Atitilan in Guatemala. I was really pleasantly surprised by our homestay experience on this tour as I had been very sceptical about what it would be like:  My only other ‘homestay’ experience in Sapa, Vietnam that I’d done when travelling independently had been more of a hostel than the night staying with a family that I’d expected.

In case you’re interested in doing this specific tour or just interested in a homestay experience in  Guatemala I thought I’d share some photos and information about what it was like.

How it works

There were around 20 of us in my tour group so we were split up into pairs and each allocated a separate family who we would stay with. We were all given a set time and location (that being the pub of course) to meet up later that evening as there was no wifi or phone signal at our families homes and we were forced to do a digital detox.

I think most of us were a little nervous about the homestay, especially those like me that didn’t speak Spanish. Don’t get me wrong I was beyond excited to see the inside of one of those beautiful colourful Guatemalan homes and stay with a local family but I was worried it was going to be awkward and I didn’t want to feel like I was intruding.

Courtyard in San Juan La Laguna
Courtyard in San Juan La Laguna

Meeting our host family

Me and my friend were paired with a really lovely man and wife with their three young children. The homes in San Juan are really traditional and quite basic but so homely inside. Our host mum made a living selling fabrics that she made and the house backed on to her shop packed full of all kinds of colourful cloths and blankets.

As much as I tried, I spoke very little Spanish and couldn’t master much more than a ‘muchas gracias’ and our family spoke even less english than that. Luckily my friend knew quite a lot although explaining that she was Gluten intolerant was a bit of a struggle.

Inside a traditional Guatemalan house
Inside a traditional Guatemalan house

Inside the house

I absolutely loved the interior of the family’s house: it was one of the most colourful places I’d ever seen.  The walls were painted bright green and beautiful paintings and traditional fabrics were hung everywhere. Our family subsided their income hosting travellers so we were set up in a lovely room, comfy used to accommodate their guests. Downstairs was were most the family slept and upstairs was the little kitchen.

Traditional Guatemalan breakfast
Traditional Guatemalan breakfast
Guatemala homestay dinner
Guatemala homestay dinner

What we ate

Traditional food in Guatemala can get a little repetitive however the food that we had at our homestay was actually some of the best authentic food that I ate in the country. Pictured at the top is a traditional Chapin breakfast consisting of black beans, eggs, plantain cheese and hot corn tortillas. Below was our vegetarian dinner of steamed vegetables and eggs mixed with spinach served with more beans and tortillas. There are only a couple of other restaurants to eat in the village however San Pedro, two kilometres down the road has loads of ‘gringo’ restaurants (including a fantastic italian which made a welcome change from beans)

Lake Atitlan Guatemala
Lake Atitlan Guatemala
Street art in San Juan
Street art in San Juan

3327DCD4-ABF2-4713-880A-513CD98433BA.JPG

San Juan La Laguna

San Juan is a tiny but absolutely gorgeous little village perched right on the edge of Lake Atitlan.  It’s a bit of a trek to get to and I think there’s only one hostel there however it offers a much more authentic view of Guatemalan life than San Pedro down the road which is a popular base for travellers because of its language schools. To get to the village we had to take a small, really bumpy speedboat from Panajachel on one side of the lake right over to the other side (and we all got absolutely drenched in the process). After stopping for food in San Pedro we all then had to cram into the back of an open truck that took us on the extremely hilly 20 minute drive to San Juan.

There’s not a whole lot going on in San Juan but it is very pretty and sleepy. It receives a small amount of tourism there because of its cooperatives which are small community projects run by the locals who demonstrate their trade and sell their products. I’ve written more about these below.

The boat ride to San Juan, Guatemala
The boat ride to San Juan, Guatemala
San Juan La Laguna
San Juan La Laguna

F782D5FE-8F34-479A-A3A3-ECC06997EA3A.JPG

The cooperatives

Visiting the cooperatives was a really fascinating experience. We went to three: a textiles one, an art one and a herbal and plant therapy one. In all three we got to meet the people in charge of running these projects and learn about their craft. I particularly enjoyed the textiles one where we watched how they made the traditional Guatemalan blankets from how they make cotton into thread to watching them extract dyes from natural ingredients before weaving it all together on the loom.

59291442-66F2-48BF-AD9D-1218B5D23B1B.JPGI really enjoyed my time in San Juan and our homestay experience in this G Adventures tour. It’s not a place that I realistically would have been able to visit if I was travelling independently so it was nice to have an experience that felt a little bit special. I’m so nosey and whenever I’m abroad I want to get a taste of life like a local and see inside people’s houses so a homestay is a great way to do just that.

If you have anymore questions about the G Adventures tour, doing a homestay in Guatemala or about the region in general then feel free to ask me any questions via the contact page.