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 2): Katherine and the students will fly together from Miami to Guatemala City, where you’ll meet Jochen and Nicté. After going through customs and immigration, we will take you to Casa Puerta Dorada, 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.
Todos Santos Cuchumatán (July 2 – 5): Time to dive into Guatemalan culture! Todos Santos is a community in the highlands of Huehuetenango and famous for its unique character. The town is known for its traje tipico, or traditional dress, as well as its strong cultural roots. It is also situated in an area heavily affected by migration, one of the topics we want to focus on as we get to know the country. To get prepared for the weeks to come, we will take our first formal Spanish lessons here and go on a small hike.
Pachaj (July 5 – 10): 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 continue our Spanish language classes, live with local families, and learn about the Chico Mendes Reforestation project happening there. We will also do a daytrip to Xela and get to know the people of the Red Kat, an organization run by and working for returned migrants.
Trek from Pachaj to Lake Atitlán (July 10 – 12): Over three days and two nights, we’ll hike from Pachaj to Lake Atitlán, staying in two communities along the way. The hike will wind through the mountains and will give us vistas of valleys, villages, and even a glimpse of the Pacific Ocean if the weather cooperates. Be sure to start walking around a bit more in preparation for the trip, as you will be glad you did when we take this trek!
San Juan La Laguna (July 12 – 19): Next we will transfer to San Juan La Laguna for our main, long homestays. Dragons has been based in this community for several years and there are deep resources for Spanish classes, ISPs (Individual Study Projects), guest speakers, and possibly, some community service. This is a base of Tzutujil Mayan culture and language.
Guatemala City (July 19 – 22): With all we have learned in the first couple of weeks, Nicté and Jochen are super excited to show you their home of choice, the capital of Guatemala. Here we will stay in a nice little hostel in a very safe area and, with our private driver, explore some important museums. We will meet Nicté’s aunt, who is an active voice of the indigenous community (and currently running for vice president of Guatemala!). We will also be there in time to observe the annual pride parade and meet with lgbtqix human rights activists.
Expedition Phase (July 22 – 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 Atitlán.
Transference and Course End (July 25 – 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?