I have always found that there’s something particularly special about pushing yourself outside your comfort zone. Whether that means going to a new country, working in a different field, or hiking through the jungle for five days, doing something scary can also be thrilling. Guatemala is a truly perfect country for having these experiences; it is a country that impresses you with its genuine nature, diverse people, and beautiful landscape. With multiple towns surrounded by mountains and volcanoes, natural pools and lakes that make for a stunning view, and an indigenous culture unlike anywhere else, in Guatemala you can truly have a little bit of everything.
By choosing Guatemala, you are choosing adventure, beauty, and the opportunity to step outside your comfort zone. For me, going outside my comfort zone meant hiking through the Petén jungle for five days to reach the ancient Mayan city of El Mirador. This city, which was officially discovered in 1968, is home to the largest pyramid of the Mayan world and before Tikal, was the largest and most powerful city. El Mirador was home to over 200,000 people and advanced architecture with high pyramids and temples placed to represent the compass rose and location of a sunrise and sunset. To this day, the only way to reach the largest pyramid of La Danta is either by helicopter or a 40 km hike through the jungle. The hike begins in the small town of Carmelita and can only be led by 16 guides who are members of the Carmelita COOP and INGUAT. Split into two days, the trek to El Mirador is defined by its swampy, animal and insect filled, and intense jungle environment. When you arrive at the El Mirador campsite, however, it nearly seems worth it as you view the ruins, ancient drawings, and views from the pyramids. There is nothing quite like it; being surrounded by nothing but jungle for miles and miles is a tranquilo experience, even if the journey there was not.
Going outside your comfort zone does not have to mean trekking through the jungle for five days or climbing volcanoes. Yet, it can mean coming to a country where you may not be fluent in the language; or maybe it’s surrounding yourself in a different culture. Central America and specifically Guatemala, is an area that can challenge travelers and students alike, while simultaneously helping them grow; sometimes without even realizing it.