Over the past weeks, we have been working together to craft a course itinerary that is dynamic, immersive, and inspiring. As you will soon learn, travel in Guatemala is not an exact science and we’ll all soon become Latin American “travel yogis”, able to bend, stretch, and breathe into the unexpected events that can be opportunities for patience and magic on the road.
At Dragons, we intentionally keep our itineraries flexible so that we can take advantage of the unexpected opportunities on the ground and adaptively craft the trip to match the interests of our group. We’ll speak more to the logic underlying our itinerary design once we’re together in Guatemala, but for now, please know that we’ve intentionally chosen places and activities to provide a progression of opportunities and challenges throughout the semester.
Our excitement has been growing as we’ve delved into planning details, and we can’t wait to share these wonderful places with each of you! So with great anticipation, we present you our tentative itinerary:
Orientation (June 28 – July 1): Katherine and the students will fly together from Miami to Guatemala City, where you’ll meet Parker, Jochen, and Nicté. After going through customs and immigration we will take you to Earthlodge, outside Antigua, for three days of orientation. Orientation is a time to prepare for our four weeks of travel in Guatemala by getting to know each other, establishing our group culture, setting expectations and goals, beginning our study of Spanish, and getting out into the local area to explore Guatemala for the first time.[Who is Nicté, you may be asking. Nicté is the daughter of Armando and the family that runs the Chico Mendes Reforestation Project in Pachaj, outside Quetzaltenango. Being of indigenous Guatemalan identity, she will be the fourth instructor on our course and will travel with us for the full four weeks we are there. She will be introducing herself on our Yak board in the next week, so look for that!]
Pachaj (July 1 – 5): We will travel to the small town of Pachaj, outside Quetzaltenango (Xela), Guatemala’s second largest city, to begin our first homestays of the course. Since Nicté is from that community, she will be our local guide and facilitator. We will start our Spanish language classes, live with local families, and learn about the Chico Mendes Reforestation project happening there.
Trek from Pachaj to Lake Atitlan (July 6 – 8): Over two days and three nights, will hike from Pachaj to Lake Atitlan, staying in two communities along the way.
San Lucas Toliman/IMAP (July 8 – 10): Do you know what permaculture is? Well, at IMAP (Instituto Mesoamericano de Permacultura), in San Lucas Toliman, on the banks of Lake Atitlan, we will learn all about that philosophy and practice. At IMAP, there is a seed saving operation, fish farming, and a connectedness with local culture and context. Hopefully we will take some learning away when we leave and apply it during our time in San Juan La Laguna and to the rest of our lives.
San Juan La Laguna (July 11 – 16): Next we will transfer to San Juan La Laguna for our main, long homestays. Dragons has been based in this community for a couple of years and there are deep resources for Spanish classes, ISPs (individual projects), guest speakers, and possibly, some community service. This is a base of Tzutujil Mayan culture and language.
San Juan Cotzal (July 17 – 20): Up north, in the Ixil Triangle, in San Juan Cotzal, we will interact with a community of brave and creative Ixil women, who formed a weaving cooperative in order to recover from the effects of the Guatemalan Civil War in the 1980s. The Ixil women will receive us in their homes and we’ll spend a couple days working alongside them to learn how to cook typical Guatemalan food, do agricultural and farming work, and learn about their history, language, and culture.
Expedition Phase (July 23 – 25): This is it! Assuming you’ve proven yourselves as a group and are working as a well-oiled machine, we will give you this time to work together to create an itinerary of travel, adventure, and learning that is meaningful for your group. As instructors, we step back into a support and safety role. The expedition phase is a moment where the group is performing at its peak (hopefully)! Don’t worry, we will guide you through the planning process and give you the tools to be able to organize your Expedition. You might design a trek, a homestay in a remote area, a service project, or more time around Lake Atitlan.
Transference and Course End (July 26 – 28): Sadly, we are almost at the end of our course. Student expedition will end in a location of the instructors’ choosing in order to facilitate a period of reflection, processing, and celebrating of all that we have accomplished. We will look forward to our next steps in life. What will it be like returning to an environment that is familiar after everything that we have learned and experienced?[You may have realized there are a couple open (flex) days in the above tentative itinerary. We have purposefully left it like that so that we can be flexible in meeting the interests of individual members and the group as a whole on our trip].