Talking Blog Birthdays, Homestays, Budgeting and Procrastinations
My blog turned three-and-a-half this week. They grow up fast don’t they? It seems like just yesterday I was trying to decide on a name and wondering what to do about my old blog, and now here she is with something ridiculous like 257 posts.
The most popular post is now Hanging with the Hippies in Patagonia, about El Bolson, the ‘hippie’ town in Argentina.
The two most popular posts from the past six months are Lavender Blue, about the fields of Lavender just south of London and This post about the abandoned bobsleigh track just outside of Sarajevo, Bosnia.
This past six months have seen me in London, then Spain, back in London, Croatia, Bosnia, Montenegro, Ireland, Mexico, Belize and finally Guatemala.
Where I’ve been this month
I spent November in San Pedro on lake Atitlan, staying in a Homestay, taking Spanish classes and generally hanging out around the lake.
It felt so good to stay in one place for an entire month.
Guatemala is a popular place to learn Spanish, hence the sheer volume of schools and teachers. The accent here is fairly neutral and the prices are low, both important considerations for anyone hoping to study Spanish.
I spent November living in a homestay (a room in a family house) supplied for me by the school. The homestay worked out well for me, although I have heard some horror stories about homestays in Central America, and previously stayed in a not-so-great one myself. Many are really just hostels, and often not particularly good ones. It’s not uncommon in these places to be sharing a bathroom with many, many people and to have no lock on your door (and not know who or how many people have access to the house). The food is variable too, and where I stayed previously my meals all turned out to be tortillas.
So I lucked out with my homestay this time, where we ate with the family every day and the food was generally very good. I didn’t need to buy any additional food, although I still bought colas to help my energy and snacks to satisfy my sugar cravings.
My room was nice enough, you could lock it (although I often didn’t bother because I knew the other people who had access to the house) and I paid a little extra to get my own bathroom. It also had hot water (trust me this is not a given in Guatemala).
If you’re considering a homestay, it’s certainly worth checking that your room is lockable and also I think it’s worth paying for your own bathroom if it is an option. I’ve had, and heard about, too many nightmare stays in places where you have nowhere safe to leave anything and have to carry your laptop around with you all day and where you have to get up at 5AM to stand any hope of getting in the bathroom.
What I’ve spent
Guatemala is not as cheap as I had been hoping. The prices are reasonable, but it doesn’t compare to parts of Asia (Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, India, say) or even to Mexico. It is more on a par with Turkey or Hungary.
I spent £400/US$540 on rent, which included most of my meals.
£40/US$54 on transport costs (which this month was mainly boats around the lake and bus trips).
A further £320/US$430 disappeared on food, laundry, drinks, phone credit, shampoos, books and such (everything else basically).
My Spanish classes cost me around £400/US$540
Then I have £300/US$400 for my expenses from ‘home’, (storage, health insurance, taxes etc).
This makes a total spend of £1460/$1964
Not too terrible, but still more than I’d been hoping.
After San Pedro I moved on to Xela (More of that later). I had been hoping to do some voluntary work, but it is December and most things have closed up. So I shall continue on into Mexico, where I have lined up an Airbnb for the rest of December.
Getting anything done whilst travelling is virtually impossible. There are too many distractions and everywhere new you go becomes another race for a good wifi signal. I pitched for a job last month and didn’t get it. When I read the piece written by the person who did get it I felt like I should just give up, go home (wherever that is) and work in Tesco; I could never write anything that good in a million years. And I don’t have a million years anyway. This leaves me scrabbling around at the bottom, pitching to Upwork, People per hour, etc for less money than I would earn working at a supermarket checkout.
Because the trouble with spending your time with talented, artistic people is that you get to realise just how much more is possible. Mediocre is a word I would apply to so many of the things I’ve attempted this past month, from my writing to my designs and even to my Spanish studies.
Well, onward and upward. Let’s see what December brings.