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Shop Til You Drop

One of my favorite things about traveling is finding the souvenirs at the end of my trip.  Most of the trinkets I buy end up sitting on my shelf, but they remind me of all the places I’ve been.  Lately, I’ve been trying to buy items that can be used such as purses, shot glasses, clothing, bracelets, etc.  The best places to buy souvenirs are all of the outdoor markets that are set up everyday.  I find all the souvenirs that I buy for me and my friends and family.  They are usually inexpensive and authentic.  Here are some of Guatemala’s best markets for shopping.

  • Chichicastenango Market– This market is also referred to as Chichi and is the most famous one in Guatemala.  It is held only on Thursdays and Sundays.  This massive market occupies the entire town square and even reaches some side streets as well.  You could either stay in Chichicastenango overnight or make it a day trip from Guatemala City or Antigua.
  • Solola Market- The Solola market is held on Tuesdays and Fridays.  While you’re shopping, you can see the beautiful Lago Atitlan down below.  It is considered to be more authentic than Chichi and you can see the locals wearing their traditional Caqchikel Maya clothing.  There are fewer tourist-oriented souvenirs because this is still an important local market, but you will be able to find many interesting authentic items.
  • Antigua- Antigua is home to Nim P’ot, which is a huge indoor collective market that has a wide variety of souvenirs.  They have standard souvenir shirts and trinkets, grain sack bags, wood furniture, and a collection of Mayan textiles.

Come Fly with Me

The first step to planning any trip is to figure out how you’re getting there.  I think it’s such a pain determining which travel websites will give you the best deal on flights.  When I tried to find out which website would get me to Cabo for spring break for the cheapest, I gave up after researching the tenth one with no improvement in the price.  You don’t need to look at a million of these travel websites to find the best deal.  In my experience, the biggest names are actually the best.  My friends have told me so many obscure and smaller sites like Student Universe and Cheapoair that have always ended up charging more than Expedia or Orbitz.  For my backpacking journey for the summer of 2012, I have been comparing prices among these different websites for a one-way ticket to Guatemala.  From what I have found, most of these sites have the same prices give or take $20.  Thanks to Expedia I was able to compare them to Orbitz, Kayak, Travelocity, Cheapoair, Priceline, and Vamana.  Orbitz, Priceline, and Travelocity all charged the same lowest price followed closely by Kayak and Expedia.  I would recommend these five websites to search for your airline and hotel needs.  The other two websites, Vamana and Cheapoair, were about $50 more expensive.  Next time you’re planning your vacation, don’t waste time looking at all these sites that will pretty much give you the same results.  Stick to the bigger names and you’ll most likely find a good deal.

Summertime brings festivals, parades, and celebration for the people of Guatemala.  I’d like to highlight a few of the major festivals that take place during the summer in case you are looking for something to do.  If you plan on traveling to Guatemala, it would be a great idea to attend one of these events.  It provides you a chance to experience and learn about Guatemala’s culture and traditions.  You get a chance to see the traditions of the people.  I’ve done some research and I’d love to tell you some of the major festivals you must attend if you’re in Guatemala this summer.

-The Day of Saint James- This day is celebrated on July 25 in La Antigua Guatemala.  The city served as the nation’s capital until an earthquake destroyed the town and the capital moved to its present location of Guatemala City.  The town of Antigua celebrates the city’s original name of Santiago de los Caballeros on the saint’s day for Santiago as a commemoration.  Antigua holds a town fair complete with parades, music, and other thrilling festivities.

The Day of our Lady of the Asuncion- Guatemala City celebrates this day on August 15.  You can see the brotherhood of the Lady of Asuncion passing through the streets of the town on their way to the church in several other towns including Solola.

Independence Day- September 15 marks the day Guatemala declared independence from Spain in 1821.  It is a national holiday that is celebrated throughout the nation.  Several towns hold parades and of course the customary firework display.  The city of Quetzaltenango hosts the largest holiday fair in the country so definitely try to be there during this joyous occasion.

These events are the larger ones that take place during the summer so I recommend visiting these destinations when popular events are taking place.  Not only will the city be alive with cheer and patriotism, but you will be able to experience the cultural traditions of the Guatemala.  Learning about different cultures is the purpose of traveling so take advantage of these events as an opportunity to learn!

Don’t forget to sign up for the Beach Cleanup this Saturday with Humanitravels!  Sign up by visiting the Meetup Group.  There’s still spots left so hurry before there’s no room left.  Check out the beach cleanup flyer for more information.

I’ve recently caught the travel bug and decided that I’m going to plan a backpacking trip throughout Central and South America.  I haven’t had the chance to fully explore Latin America so I’ve chosen the summer after I graduate to trek around this culturally rich and fascinating region.  I have no backpacking experience whatsoever so preparing for this trip will definitely be a challenge.  I’ve been to Costa Rica and figure that it would be a solid starting point for my journey.  I want to fly into Costa Rica or a neighboring country and make my way southward.  My must-see destinations are Panama, Peru, Brazil, Argentina, and Chile, but would love to see as much as I possibly can.  My itinerary would look something like this

Home -> Costa Rica -> Panama -> Colombia -> Ecuador -> Peru -> Bolivia -> Chile -> Argentina -> Paraguay or Uruguay -> Brazil -> Home

Looking at a map on my computer makes this look like it will be a piece of cake.  However, I know Chile isn’t the size of my pinky and that makes me feel nervous about how I can possibly complete this journey in a timely manner.  I only want to travel for about 3-4 weeks.  I think that is a long enough time, but then again I have no idea about how the transportation works in these countries and how long it will take to get from point A to B or how long I’ll want to stay in each of these locations.  I’d love to incorporate some volunteer time throughout my trip too so I’ll be finding the best volunteering opportunities available.  Follow me through this journey to plan my backpacking adventure.  I’ll give you the best travel tips and advice that I find in my research.  I’d love to hear your input as well so feel free to comment or contact me with any information or ideas that you have.

Best Beaches in Peru

Now that summer is here, the only place I want to be at is the beach. There’s nothing better than laying out in the warm sun and listening to the soothing sounds of waves crashing on the shore. I’m from Southern California so I’ve been a beach bum all my life. I think that everyone enjoys a nice day at the beach, which is why I want to tell you the best beaches Peru has to offer.
Punta Sal– Punta Sal is arguably the best beach in all of Peru. This small beach resort is located in northern Peru in the department of Tumbes. Because of its proximity to the warm El Nino current and the cold Humboldt Current that collide in this area, there is sunshine year round. The waters are calm and warm, averaging 75-82 degrees Farenheit.
Mancora– Mancora is a well-known surfing destination located in northwestern Peru in the Piura region. The weather is great and sunny almost all year. You’ll find that when you visit Mancora, it is extremely popular for young people.
Cabo Blanco– This beach destination is also located in northwestern Peru like Mancora. Cabo Blanco is legendary for big game fishing as well as surfing. People do not go here as much for relaxing purposes, but for recreation.
Help Humanitravels clean up our local beach on Saturday, June 4. Check out the Facebook event invitation for more details to find out how you can participate. The first five people to sign up will receive a free t-shirt so hurry up and claim your spot today!

For those of you who have graduated, Humanitravels is offering a great promotional deal on their programs.  What better way to spend your summer by taking some time off to explore Latin America?  If you sign up for one of the volunteer programs by June 31, you will receive an extra week for FREE!  Even if you haven’t considered volunteering abroad, this could be a great way to celebrate the end of college and take a break before applying to grad schools or looking for a job.

Another deal that is going on right now is if you book a program that takes place in the destination of the month.  May’s destination of the month is Quetzaltenango or its more pronounceable nickname Xela.  If you book before May 31, then you can receive $150 off your program!  This deal is for everyone, not just recent graduates.  Be sure to take advantage of these money saving deals!

Come to the next Humanitravels Meetup Group event at Jupiter on Tuesday May 31 if you’d like to find out more information on these promotions.  Enjoy some cocktails and delicious food after work or school and meet other people in your area who like to travel.  Check out the Facebook event invitation for more details.

If you’re a college student like me then you probably do not have a lot of money to spend on travel opportunities. This year, I’ve made it my goal to cut my spending and start to save money for my trip to Europe next summer. It’s not so expensive once you’ve made it to your destination, but the airfare is the real killer. Try these tricks to save money for your next dream vacation.
Cook at home– I know it’s hard to muster up the energy to cook after working all day, but believe me it’ll save you a lot in the end. I spent way too much on eating out because I was too lazy or because it was a quicker alternative. Also, you are able to cook enough food to last you a few days so you just have to cook once and you’re set. In the end, cooking at home is cheaper and saves you time.
Make your own coffee– I’ve spent shameful amounts on coffee especially during finals week. I’d spend anywhere from $15-$25 a week just on coffee! Do yourself a favor and purchase a coffee maker. If you drink coffee everyday this is a huge investment.
Make a list before grocery shopping– Whenever I went grocery shopping, it seemed like I walked out with the entire store. I would mindlessly pick up items I didn’t need, but thought I might. I started making a list before shopping and it has helped me immensely with staying within my budget. I never spend more than $40-$50 a week on groceries and I rarely have to throw out food that’s gone bad.
Buy in bulk– Try to buy non-perishable products in bulk. Toothpaste, shampoos, body wash, etc. won’t go bad so buy these in bulk and you’ll have your own personal stock.
Bring your own bottled water– Purchase a plastic or aluminum reusable water bottle instead of buying bottled water. Carrying your own water is cheaper and better for the environment.
These money saving tips are good ways for you to cut back spending so you can finally take that vacation. It’s little lifestyle changes like this that will give you breathing room in your budget to travel. I’ve adopted these tips and can safely say that they have helped me tremendously with my finances. Try these out for yourself and see how they work for you.