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5 things you should know before moving to Panajachel

5 Things You Should Know Before You Move to Panajachel, Guatemala

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So moving to Guatemala was never on my bucket list. It still honestly blows my mind that I live here. I’ve been here for 3 years now (this blog has been updated from 2016) and can’t imagine living anywhere else. That’s not to say I’m here to stay but this will definitely always be home. Panajachel is the lovely lake town I call home. I still have other countries in Central and South America I want to explore.

Anyway, let’s move on….

Back in May I wrote a similar article about the things you should know about Costa Rica. I’m surprised by the differences between the two places. Naively, I thought all the countries in Central America would be about the same. Not so, not really. Perhaps I should have read The Lonely Planet more instead of just dusting off the cover.

When I decided to move to Panajachel, International Living was my go to source for information on it. A tea leaf reader suggested Guatemala but I was on my own to find a place to live here. After reading about all the pretty lake towns, it was Panajachel I decided upon because it really does have so much more to offer than the smaller towns around Lake Atitlan.

Panajachel, Guatemala it is!

Before I start, you should know that I came down here on a song and a prayer, without doing much research at all. Remember, I had someone else choose the country for me and Guatemala it was. Yup, I kid you not. Though I did reach a bit on IL about it, it barely just touched the surface (someone should write another article for them about Panajachel). Anyway,  I bought a one way ticket….the rest is history.

I am very happy here. Ridiculously so. Surprisingly so. I found a sweet volunteer mission that I will be joining next week. The weather, for me, is perfect. My Spanish is getting better. I practice every day. I am finding my way around here quite well and make it a point to walk down to the lake every day. It’s beautiful beyond words.

I am very safe and never feel threatened. I have yet to run into any critters that are bigger than me or look intimidating but it’s still early. I have made a few friends too!! (no, not with critters) My new apartment is up in the mountains and it takes 100 stairs to get there. Yup, it’s brutal but I’ve only had to stop and take a breather a couple of times. I’m hoping by week 3 or 4 I should have this mastered. Good thing I don’t smoke anymore. The view makes it sooooo worth it though. I love my daily walks, something I never ever did in Sudbury.

So if you’ve had Guatemala on your radar, especially Panajachel, here are a few things you should know before packing your stuff and coming down here.

If you really love dogs, don’t come down here.

There are many, many, wait one more, many dogs roaming the streets all day and night. They are, for the most part, homeless, sick, hungry and dirty. They are very skinny, they lay around on the sidewalks, flies buzzing all around them. Yes, it’s pretty sickening actually. If this is going to make you cry and become extremely upset, don’t come down here. You will never leave your house.

Unless you wish to come down here to help! There is an amazing pet volunteer organization that does their absolute best at helping the furry critters down here. I recently just joined them as a volunteer! Please check them out here!

If you really don’t like dogs, don’t come down here.

Read #1 again but the twist to this whole stray dog situation is that there is dog poo EVERYWHERE!! You are constantly side stepping dog poo. You want to look up to see where you are going and look at different things but then you have to look down so you don’t step in fresh, poo. Look up, no wait, oops, look down. Oh damn. And the barking is endless. There is always barking. Not just one dog but many. A dozen at a time some days (and nights) Ya, if you don’t really like dogs, just stay home.

It’s very very poor down here.

Poor like you see on TV. Ya, the TV isn’t kidding. It’s just like that. You will be bombarded continually by vendors trying to sell you their things and, I might add, their things are very beautiful!! Some of the vendors send their very young children after you to tug on your heart strings and trust me, it tugs.

It’s very very beautiful down here.

The culture, the mountains, the lake, the volcanoes. It’s all very breathtaking. I still can’t believe I’m here. Everywhere you look you see beauty. The ladies in their native dresses, the cute little tuk tuks, all the colours of the clothes, blankets, tapestries, wall hangings etc., and the surrounding mountains. So much beauty in Guatemala. Who knew?.

There are many things you will miss from home and I don’t mean just family.

I’m a purse candy fanatic. Sweet-tarts are always in my purse. Not anymore. The purse candies they have here are crap. I brought my own huge tub of Coconut oil, though it is available here it is very expensive. I don’t even know what the heck I’m going to do when I run out of my salon shampoo and conditioner and as far as professional hair colour goes? I shudder at the thought of having to buy box dye but a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do.

It’s certain foods you miss, radio stations, driving your car, going to your gym, using a washer and dryer. Things like that that we take for granted. I’ve brought down as many things as I could to make it always feel homey. So far so good.

I really truly do love this place, already. I surprise myself constantly. How long I am here for is still anyone’s guess. I may never go back to Sudbury. For now, I am enjoying the present, Panajachel, Guatemala and my time here. I will worry about tomorrow when it gets here.

Excuse me, can you tell me where I can find margarita mix, por favor?

Peace and Love!

Iva ♥

(this post contains an affiliate link so if you make a purchase I make a small commission)

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4 Responses

  1. Some of the vendors send their very young children after you to tug on your heart strings and trust me, it tugs. WE DONT WANT OR NEED YOU PEOPLE. DONT COME TO CENTRAL AMERICA TO CLEAN YOUR EMOTIONAL GARBAGE, STAY IN YOUR COUNTRIES. IMMIGRATION KARMA.

    1. You don’t want or need us people? Perhaps you should talk to the vendors on the streets who rely on tourism to feed their families before you make a rude comment like that.

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Iva Ursano is a retired hairstylist turned badass freelancer, who left behind 52 years of her life in Northern Ontario, Canada for a life of freedom, love and beauty in sunny Guatemala. She has two main purposes in life: feed hungry bellies and help inspire people to live a life of joy and love.