I’m wrapping up my 6 week stint in Guatemala where I worked remotely and studied Spanish.
Even with my flight and school costs, my living expenses abroad were actually less than they would have been at home in Alabama.
This still amazes me and is the exact reason that I plan to return to Central and South America in the future to live/work for chunks of time.
I follow a number of lifestyle blogs and am always finding new ones.
During this trip, I had the opportunity to meet 2 different bloggers in the flesh – and it was an absolute treat.
First, I got to meet the Denning clan – Rachel and Greg Denning (and crew).
I started following their blog – www.DiscoverShareInspire.com close to a year ago.
They took off from Alaska heading towards South America.
They hit Guatemala, fell in love with the people, and have been there since.
After being in Guatemala close to a year, they had the idea to start the Mayan Eco Homestead.
Their intention is to give local Mayans additional creative opportunities to make a living.
Most folks in Guatemala that own a piece of land grow corn.
But corn is everywhere which means the price is driven lower – this is also the main staple in their diet which is why Guatemala is a top leader in malnutrition in the world – not because they’re starving, but because they’re always eating corn.
But there are much more profitable things that folks can do – raise chickens for eggs, create fish farms, etc.
The Mayan Eco Homestead teaches these methods.
My favorite part is that folks are required to come to the farm to learn the methods.
They first have to log hours and help on the farm.
After they’ve learned the process and helped a certain amount of hours, they get paid in the form of materials – for example, maybe they’re given 5 chickens to start collecting eggs in order to sell.
I love the concept.
These guys are giving a hand up – not a hand out.
[A similar project that I like and also donate to is www.kiva.org - also focusing on hand ups].
Many larger organizations with good intentions swoop in and give away useful items [more efficient cooking stoves for example].
Unfortunately a lot of times the people stop using the new freely given product and revert to their traditional way of doing things.
There are many reasons for this, but a main one is because the people weren’t given ownership in the new process.
They were just given a “hand out” rather than the hand up.
The Denning’s story is amazing and their family is awesome.
There were kids running all over the place, making bows and arrows, playing in the woods, feeding chickens.
It was great to get to talk with Greg as we worked on completing a new compost toilet.
He’s as passionate in real life as he is in his videos.
The guy is truly about living deliberately and wants the best for his family – I admire him for it.
They showed me a home that they were building in the side of a hill – literally out of mud.
It’s another project for the homestead, as the home will be more efficient than other simple homes the locals build and will only cost a fraction of the price.
It will act as a guest house as well and I can’t wait to go back to visit and stay there!
Second, I had the chance to meet Rich Polanco of UnwireMe.
My friend sent me a link to a cool article about Lake Atitlan in Guatemala.
After clicking around I realized that it was a blog from a guy with interests very similar to mine – working remotely, travelling slowly, designing your lifestyle.
I also realized that he lived in Antigua, Guatemala which was where I would be my final week in Guatemala.
I reached out to him and he was happy to meet with me.
We met up and had a walk around town.
He showed me things that I didn’t even realize existed – I thought I had seen the town fully.
I found that the market was 5-7 times larger than I originally thought.
The rear part is where all of the locals buy their fresh fruits and foods.
The rear section is completely hidden from common passerby – I didn’t know it was there.
We chatted over some coconut water and I realized that I was becoming even more excited about the city of Antigua.
He was truly passionate about the city and is a huge proponent of slow travel.
It’s common for most folks to fit as much as they can into a 2 week trip.
I understand why – it’s the typical vacation length.
Seeing what some people are able to plan on a 2 week trip can absolutely tire me.
Just thinking about it drains me.
It’s not uncommon for folks to go back to work in order to get a rest from their vacation.
So I instantly had commonalities with Rich.
I prefer to do everything at my own pace and try to really take a place in.
It’s not about checking off locations on some list.
For me it’s about getting to know a place – seeing what’s behind closed doors, chatting with people, sitting and observing.
Rich is so passionate about slow travel that he’s written a guide about it for Antigua that you can purchase on his website.
Meeting these lifestyle bloggers in real life was amazing.
I started my own blogging adventure a bit over a year ago.
I first started a blog in the niche of real estate investing.
After 6-8 months, I realized that my interest was much broader.
I wanted to write about marketing, lifestyle, and working remotely.
You start to find other bloggers that are similar and have their own story to sing.
You start reaching out and commenting on their articles – spurring each other on.
For me, I knew that there were real people behind those blogs, but it never truly sank in until I was able to meet them in person.
And during my 6 week trip in Guatemala I was able to meet 2! (I have yet to meet any in my homeland of the U.S. which is quite humorous).
Meeting these folks in the flesh and seeing their passion is inspiring.
It spurs me to continue blogging and building my platform.
Spreading my message.
It’s also why I suggest that you blog as well.
It also reminds me that we all need each other – bloggers and non-bloggers alike.
If you have a site or blog, building these relationships is key to your future growth and success.
A network of worldwide friends is insanely important to have.
If you’re every in Alabama look me up!
Have you met someone recently that’s had an impact on your life?