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Last week, I quit my job. It’s not the first time I’ve given notice and the act itself isn’t unusual. People leave jobs all the time, whether it’s to work for a new employer, start their own company, or to provide care for children or other family members. The difference between those people and me is that they have a plan that the general public instantly understands.
As for me? My plans are only short-term and somewhat unconventional.
Don’t worry: I haven’t entirely lost my mind. I have amazing, exciting, exhilarating plans for this spring! I’m heading to Guatemala for 7+ weeks!
One of my travel dreams has been to study Spanish in Central America and now I’m taking the opportunity to give it a try. This is exactly what I want to do for the next mini-phase of my life: finally work on my language skills, see a region reasonably in-depth, and still be able to do it all without breaking the bank (or my relationship).
Ever since I graduated from college, I’ve regretted not studying abroad and have considered some form of long-term travel. Over the past six years, I’ve made excuses for why I haven’t pursued anything. I can’t save that kind of money. I can’t take a career break. I can’t leave my husband behind (and I definitely can’t convince him to come with me!).
All along, I’ve been reading other blogs or listening to other stories about how easy it is to prepare for long-term travel. And all along, I’ve been thinking to myself, “easier said than done”. In reality, it’s easier done once said. As soon as I started openly talking about my goals and explaining my ambitions, a simple solution appeared for every excuse I could dream up.
Now I’m finishing up some projects at work, tying up loose ends at home, and getting organized for the longest travel experience I’ve ever taken.
After a lot of thought and research and changing my mind a few times, I’ve settled on spending the entire time in Guatemala. The country is well-known for its Spanish language schools and affordable prices, but to be fair there was a lot more to my decision than the facts on paper. It’s a country I’ve been to before, and I think I stated it best after my first visit:
What I took away more than anything from Guatemala was the country’s spirit, pride, and friendliness – three great reasons to go back for a longer visit in the future.
This will not be a vacation. Yes, there will be aspects of rest and relaxation while I’m in Guatemala, the same way I take time for myself at home, but I am traveling with a purpose. I intend to work hard at improving my Spanish, a language I know enough of to have a meaningful conversation, but one I’m not fluent in. The subjunctive tense is a particular struggle for me and one that I hope will become more second-nature since it makes up such a large portion of the Spanish language. My time will be split between formal classes, informal tutoring, homestays where no English is spoken, and simply practicing while I’m out and about.
I won’t see everything in Guatemala. This is a tough one for me, knowing that I have time at my disposal to see “all” of the country, but I need to pare things down to a manageable amount of destinations. I will absolutely move around to get a feel for different regions, but I can’t possibly get to know the entire country in a span of seven weeks, even if I wasn’t spending time studying.
Lastly, despite being a sizable time commitment, this is a temporary endeavor. I’m not selling all my things and hoping to scrape by on a few dollars a day because I need my money to stretch for a year or two. I’m not becoming a nomad without a home base and I’m not relocating to Central America. Sure, there are aspects of permanent travel or life as an expat that sound lovely, but ultimately I can say without hesitation it’s not the lifestyle for me. But for a few months? It sounds incredible!
For some of my journey, I’ll be on my own. At other points of time, I’ll be joined by my husband or my mom. I love the idea of discovering things on my own but still being able to share experiences with some of the people I love. I’m secretly also a little excited to observe their first reaction to a chicken bus ride!
What does this mean for my blog?
Obviously, you can expect some posts around Guatemala, with a different point of view from a standard sightseer. I hope to share some of the scenes from Antigua’s Semana Santa and whether or not Tikal’s still worth a visit if you don’t like ruins. I’ll also give you the honest run-down on what it’s like to live in a homestay (the truth should be obvious when you hear if I switch to hostels or apartments partway through!) and if it’s hard to be away from home for so long.
However, if you’re not at all interested in Guatemala, I still have plenty of share. I’ve got more articles on Albuquerque, Quebec, Hawaii, and Virginia on the way — not to mention travel tips that aren’t related to a specific destination at all.
Considering how little time is left between now and my flight, I have a lot to do to get ready for this, but I am really excited to be researching, planning, and counting down to my adventure!
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21 thoughts on “I Quit My Job! (& What’s Next for Becky)”
Well you don’t have to go all the way to Guatemala to learn Spanish. You could have just gone to Miami! Have fun!
@FreeTravelGuys, I agree that’s a great place to practice Spanish – but it’s much harder to support yourself financially for an extended time without a paycheck.
You go girl!
@Fishing4Deals, Thanks for the encouragement!
Good for you! It sounds like you’ll get a lot out of it, and I’m impressed by anyone who can step up and follow one of their goals like that. Good luck!
@Leigh, it’s a big step for me and little scary (not the trip itself, but what I’ll do afterwards when I’m unemployed and back home).
Good luck with the subjunctive. I’d say that using it is still very conscious and not automatic for me as there are some rules regarding tense I have to remember each time I use it.
You might want to take a grammar book down to supplement because I don’t have confidence a native speaker could teach subjunctive well. (Consider how you’d teach subjunctive in English to someone.)
@Scott, I understand what you mean. I can conjugate in my sleep but it’s really hit or miss when I remember to use it (or use it in the correct circumstances). I have some written resources/books that I used in school but I’m hoping between a variety of instructors, someone will help me lock in the concept. I don’t expect to be perfect at the end of my time there, but I do hope to be confident enough and encouraged enough to keep practicing afterwards.
Go for it! YOLO. Do these things when you are young. Smart girl.
@P T, Yes, this is an opportunity I may not get later in life. Thanks for the encouragement!
Wow .. what an adventure! I’m a big believer in “bird in the hand” travel: Do it when you can and while you can. Have a fabulous time!
@Barb, I love your description of “bird in the hand” travel. What a fun concept! I had a lot to set up to make this opportunity real, but I’m excited that it has all worked out.
Good luck and safe travels! I’ll look forward to your posts on homestays – I’m especially interested to know if they would be appropriate for older travelers? I’m working on Spanish with Duolingo and Anki, and I’ve bought a couple of grammar books. Also, how do you plan to keep up your practice when you get back? Mucho gusto!
@Scott, From what I’ve read, language schools attract all ages, whether kids as part of a family traveling right on up to golden agers (and everything inbetween) — and homestays are a big part of the school program. I’ll keep you posted once I have more hands-on experience. I’ve never tried Anki but found that Duolingo isn’t a good fit for me. Unfortunately, no software program will ever be able to tailor the program to an individual so it can be good for basics but at some point general practice needs to come in. I’ll be keeping up through future travels, local clubs, and Skype lessons on an as-needed basis. Buena suerte!
Sounds like an awesome adventure, Becky! I was wondering about your Canada trip until you addressed it in this post. Did the French you learned help?
I hope you have an amazing time in Guatemala and you get out of it everything you wanted. Looking forward to reading about it.
@Adam, Yes, the French helped but not in the way I expected it to. I think starting conversations in French helped show respect and my interest in the local area but almost everyone switched over to English once they heard my attempts. I’ve got more work to do, someday.
@Rapid Travel Chai, That makes us equal – waiting for my chance to visit India!
I love Guatemala. I have been 3 times and I have been thinking about going back. I have plenty of miles and points, thanks to the credit card game, but sometimes it the places that are closer to home that call to you. I love Antigua (it blows my mind that no one knows that this gorgeous city exits so close to home), we rented a house in Lake Atitlan and it’s beautiful (I’m scared of spiders though and there were a ton in the house), and the black volcanic sand on the west coast is HOT. Oh, and the east coast is crazy with all the English speakers and Jamaican feel. Have fun! I am jealous. Can’t wait to read about your adventures!
@Jasmine, Thanks for sharing your experience! I’m on Lake Atitlan now, but no spiders (yet!).