Travel To Guatemala: And Survive 30 Days off $400

Matt Hendrickson enjoying his visit to Semuc Champey in Guatemala

Matt Hendrickson enjoying his visit to Semuc Champey in Guatemala

When I was working for an NGO in Antigua, Guatemala, our volunteers were paid $400/month. This may not seem like a lot, but somehow, they not only made it work, they thrived. They took weekend trips to the beach. They went often to Lake Atitlan and danced on the bars of Irish pubs.

For the price of a first world car payment, they made their travel to Guatemala stretch beyond the realm of all monetary sense! And you can too, by budgeting like they did.

Travel To Guatemala with $5,000 and you can live comfortably for a year. Calling all starving artists! Stop complaining about the man and how working for him is killing your craft–save up 5Gs, go to Guatemala, and consider it a year-long residency to pursue your art.

This budget is based off living in Antigua, Guatemala–which is a good place to set the bar–if you can afford to make it in Antigua, you can afford to make it anywhere in Guatemala, you little first-world king.

Here’s a sample of how budget might look for cheap travel to Guatemala

Item: Cost:
Rent $200
Groceries $80
Bar Hopping/Eating Out $120
 Shoe Shine $0.80
Total: $400.80


This guy not only got an appartment in Guatemala, he got clothes to match it.

This guy not only got an apartment in Guatemala, he got clothes to match it.

 Save Money When You Travel To Guatemala By Getting An Apartment

It’s true, you can get hostel beds for $5 a night. Which means, if you want to you can find a hostel that will host you for $150/month. That’s pretty good, but if you are going to be traveling in the same place in Guatemala for any length of time, it’s roughly the same price to get yourself an apartment. While expats have been complaining that rents have been going up in the past couple years, you can still get an acceptable place at the lower end for around $200. If you live just outside of Antigua, Guatemala, you can get a place for much cheaper. The trade-off is if the house is not secure, your gringo-ass is going to be a target for robbery.

If you can get into the Antigua, Guatemala Facebook classifieds, that’s about your best option for finding a nice apartment to sublet.

Amy Gridley, Lady in Guatemala

Amy Gridley, Lady in Guatemala

Save Money When You Travel To Antigua, Guatemala By Being A Lady

Mankind has spent much of its existence oppressing womankind, and it seems that bar owners in Antigua, Guatemala are trying to single handed make amends with their outrageous selection of ladies nights. Basically if you are a lady on a budget who doesn’ mind swarms of sweaty men interested in teaching you “to salsa dance”, you should never need to pay for a drink in Antigua, Guatemala. Period.

The Magazine Que Pasa has a good listing of happy hours and lady’s nights in Antigua.

Me in the market being. . . AWESOME.

Me in the market being. . . AWESOME. 

Save Money In When You Travel To Guatemala By Buying Your Food, Clothes and Octopus At The Local Market

Octopus for $2.50 a pound? You can afford to fill up the kiddie pool and bath tub with the sweet tentacles. I suggest bathing them in a bath of simmering peanut oil. A bag of beets for $0.80? WTF?

A trip to Antigua, Guatemala’s market is a trip to the meaning of why we live and travel to begin with. I once went through an unfortunate period in my life where I bitched about the market. “I’m tired of bargaining for apples!” I said, because I was young and foolish and just wanted to buy my apples from a store like Walmart.

Read On The Wild Side

The reality is that the Antigua market is a fabulous ride. I tend to roll up with 100Q ($12) and roll out with two massive bags that I can barely carry of all sorts of wonderful fresh fruits and vegetables.

I would like to tell you where my fish guy is, but the fact is, after seven years I still don’t really know my way around Antigua’s Market. It’s a maze. I just ask people, “Where’s the fish section?” and eventually I get there.

If you’re looking for an easy fish, I recommend the cierra–“saws”–they go for between Loche and Fish in Guatemala$2-2.50 a pound. Keep the head and eat the eyeballs because they taste like popcorn. If you eat cierra pescado with your friend Loch, he will let you eat the eyes from his fish because he does not believe that they taste like popcorn, even though he’s never tried.

Well that covers everything, drinking, eating and sleeping. If you need a job in Antigua, Guatemala, hostels and bars are always looking for someone like you. There are also a lot of volunteer and NGO opportunities–some very worthwhile.


Just remember Guatemala, Antigua especially, is a good place not to get complacent. Find out here what pepper spray to pack, and here how to stay safe in Antigua, Guatemala.

Poem: Iceland


Waterfall in Iceland

Waterfall in Iceland


Sheep speckling green countryside
Towns that only know their name
The drone of draining
Waterfalls stuttering a shutter

Black sand dark like
Ashen wool of rams
Bred for wildness by
Frostbitten fingers
Lingering in towns that only
Know their name

Sunset hues at noon
Subside at the season’s
Undecided hour
Colorful painters
Do not capture this horizons’
Fresh feeling
Frost diaphanous
Music behind wools woven
In the color of cold and stiff
Tough like candle-lit moments
Alone with sulfurous affection
The glimpse of feather in a forgotten nest
Hearing a crash of salt water on crags
Inspired the birds who call out only their names.


If you enjoyed this please check out my poetry books: How We Are Human and iPoems for the Dolphins to Click Home About

Update on The Phoenix Orphanage Organization


Orphans from Zigoti, Uganda

Travel Write Sing is about traveling, writing and singing, but it is also about interacting with local populations in a way that leaves both the traveler and the locals the better for it.

Since 2013,some of my readers, family, friends and I have helped an orphanage in Uganda called The Phoenix Orphanage Organization, founded by an orphan from Zigoti in Mityana, Uganda where it is located.

This year, a friend of mine from LA, Andrew, who I worked with on a water treatment system in Guatemala fundraised for the orphanage to support his girlfriend Sara who spent six months volunteering with Ian and his orphanage.

If you are looking for a place to volunteer while you are in Uganda, please contact me and I would be happy to put you in touch with Ian, director of the orphanage (and he would be THRILLED to have you). For now, here’s an update from Ian and the kids in Uganda.

Update on the Phoenix Orphanage Organization


The children are doing fine their semester is going well besides water issues.  With the water, things aren’t okay the shallow well from the school is dry, but other things are okay thanks to all sponsors in Europe and United States for your support to the Phoenix Orphanage Organization, Zigoti in Mityana, Uganda.

About our Orphanage in Zigoti, Uganda

The Orphanage is a non-profit organization, it has been in existence of 4yrs to target education and health in Zigoti Mityana. These efforts have financed by Sarah and Andrew during their stay with us. We aim to facilitate lasting change and to improve the lives of the orphaned children in the orphanage.

Here in the orphanage children were falling sick a lot, but the number of them falling sick reduced, after Sarah and Andrew taking care of the payments for health care and helping us gain access to clean drinking water. If possible, it would be great to create a water source for our orphanage. This could help other people from the community as well, and provides kids with continuous health treatment.There is now only one well in Zigoti, it’s located in south Zigoti and is used by so many people.

Lunch time at the orphanage

Lunch time at the orphanage

Feeding in the Orphanage

We have also tried to change the diet for the kids and now they eat rice, fruits, and some kids eat eggs for their good health.

Invitation of International people/friend

We at Phoenix Orphanage Organization kindly invite you to come and stay with us to share ideas, experience, and help us to run the projects technically.

Holiday Program

The purpose is to give Children a safe fun place to come during their school holiday and participate in activities such as: singing, dancing, drama, and acrobatic performance. In this way, we can perform and, but we still lack instruments/equipment for this program.


Uganda orphanage water project


Livelihood Projects

If possible it would have been good to lift the Orphanage with through sustainable methods such as: project for income generation and art.

Humbly here, we submit our request to help in setting up a project for income generating activity where we can raise Money to take care of the children’s needs, we are looking for someone with a good heart who can stand with us to contribute or support this project to set up the project. It would be of a great value for the orphanage.

Children in Uganda

Children in Uganda

Child Sponsorship

Education is one of the most important factors required for individuals to lift themselves out of poverty. Now there are currently 55 Orphans from the Orphanage, 53 kids are in Primary school, and 2 children are in senior secondary school.  You can Sponsor a vulnerable child to go to school, there is four months in a term.

Appreciation from Phoenix Orphanage Organization goes to Luke Maguire Armstrong, Sarah Marie Roth & Andrew Bui for the funds etc they donated to pay tuition for kids education, and the semester is going on well,

Please kindly we need your continuous help. It helps the Orphanage! Please we assure you 100% of Donations goes directly to the Children’s needs. We extended our thanks/appreciation to all other friends for the Support to the Orphanage. .

Please if there is anyone who would like to donate other things apart from money are greatly appreciated, because they are really useful and helpful to us.

Best wishes from our corporation,

Ian – Founder and Director

Errupting Volcanoes, Attacking Fruit Flies – Volcan de Fuego 2015

Eruption from Volcan de Fuego in 2012

Eruption from Volcan de Fuego in 2012


Volcano Guatemala – It Could Happen to You

The first page of the newspaper feels like oily sandpaper from the volcanic ash clinging to the ink of the lead photo which depicts glowing lava from El Volcan de Fuego, which just blew a plume 600 meters into the troposphere. It adds immediacy to the Prensa Libre’s coverage of El Volcan de Fuego’s February, 7 2015th eruption.Prensa Libre Volcan de Fuego 2015

As Fuego erupted, I napped unaware—synchronously dreaming about an inevitable earthquake set to strike Antigua, Guatemala. After three unnecessarily unproductive days, I awoke from my nap avowed to finish something—anything—an article—some freelance contract hours—song—book. I took the path of assured success and settled in to finish the 100 or so pages that remained of Carl Hiaasen’s 2013 novel, “Bad Monkey.”

This kept me offline for a full five hours. What could I possibly miss in five hours spent offline? Apparently a lot. El Volcan de Fuego can live up to its name and hurl enough ash into the air to cover Antigua in a thin layer. And for anyone trying to fly out that day? Try again, when one of the most active volcanos in Central America isn’t doing its thing.

In The Shadow of El Volcan de Fuego

Volcan Fuego 2015

Living in his shadow, unable to buy even toilet paper without a glimpse of his often smoking cone, it’s easy to forget what a maniac The Volcano of Fire can be. It’s a safe bet the Mayan’s lost histories are rife with tales of just what an ashhole Fuego is.

Volcan de Fuego activity periods

In Colonial times, Fuego leveled the town of Yepocapa in 1582. In 1932, it blasted ash all the way to El Salvador and Honduras. Then in 1999, it partied like it was 1999 and entered a new period of activity. Luckily, February 2015, Fuego’s eruption was without loss of life, and fewer people were evacuated than attended your first-grade choir concert.

Travel Book

Apocalypse on the Outside, Fruit Flies Within

Fruit Fly Kitchen

While ash covered everything outside, fruit flies covered the kitchen. I’d say there are about 100 fruit flies subletting my kitchen. Ever since I started thinking about them as subletters, I’m less disgusted in their choice to exist with Amy and I. The truth is, it has been complete cleaning anarchy around here ever since we got a maid. Before, we actually gave somewhat of a shit about making messes. Before Amy and I—not the tidiest of roommates—knew that sooner or later there would be an hour of reckoning and we would need to undo all the piles of chaos and dirty dishes we had left here and there.

Now, we count the hours until Teresa the maid comes and wonder how things got so bad. We wish we weren’t this way, but looking around the house and knowing we created this, it’s hard to escape the fact of who we’ve turned into as adult people. Well, at least we have something to work on. . .

Dinosaur Birthday Party

Cole’s Dinosaur birthday party at Tropicana Hostel Antigua

Part of the problem is that there are craft supplies EVERYWHERE from Amy’s three-day dinosaur-making-binge that she embarked upon in order to adorn Cole’s birthday party with dinosaurs. What a beautifully thoughtful mess! Cole may have just turned 33, but dinosaur-wise, he has a lot in common with your standard eight-year-old boy after he sees Jurassic Park for the first time. This is why I generally trust Cole as a human being.

I was proud on Cole’s birthday night that I got in early and got a bit of work done. There comes a point during freelancing days when your bank account is embarrassed at its own balance that work simply must get done. It is a point where if you are not working, you are not where you want to be because you know that this dream you call your life still hangs in a precarious finantial balance. So I went to bed planning to work binge the next day. . .

And at the End of the World, Will We Jam?

But where does one draw the line between an all-day jam sessions and work? When a volcano wakes up and not so subtly and reminds you of life’s precarious lease, and when that day you are invited to a brunch/jam session with some of Antigua’s current musical finest, work can wait. Again. You can work mañana, if there is a mañana.

I love this town partly because it’s impossible to not always be missing out on something awesome. Even while I was having a blast at the jam session, some other friends were on a mountain overlooking the Panchoy valley, having a blast. Fun, charity work, hikes, jam sessions, nights out, day drinking, hanging out in gardens, hanging out on rooftop terraces, weekend trips to the beach or lake or new undiscovered corners, quiet afternoons in surrounding villages, coffee conversations and new friends are always erupting everywhere. I’ve said about about New York and the same goes for Antigua, Guatemala—it’s impossible to do anything because you are already doing everything.

So while people north of the border ask me why I keep coming back to Antigua, Guatemala, the question I ask myself down here is, “Why do I ever leave Antigua?”

The Jam Session At The End of the World

Read On The Wild Side

25 Inspiring Travel Quotes from “The Directions to Happiness”


Travel quotes are those intrepid one-liners we scrawl in our dirty notebook, cut up and tape to our The Directions to Happinessmirror, or in extreme cases, tattoo onto our ass. Travel quotes remind us why we’re chosen the open road instead of, say, the cubicle.

Travel quotes remind us why we’ve chosen the open road instead of, say, the cubicle. They good fodder for those days when we’re holed up on our beds wondering what exotic parasites have colonized us.

I found Bruce Northam’s new book “The Directions to Happiness” (the author who wrote the intro to mine) to be the sort of reads that finds you stopping frequently to wonder, “Where the hell did I put my pen?” so that I could write some of these intrepid travel quotes down for future inspiration.



  • “Traveling creates a divine opportunity to reinvent yourself”.

  • “You can create a collage of four or five domestic stamps, making the unsung side of postcards a mosaic of imported art.”

  • “The enlightened never figure out who is teaching and who is learning.”

  • “At the core of travel is asking strangers questions.”

  • “It took the first man to walk around the world four years, three months, and six days to complete his journey—about the same amount of time it takes for keen students to graduate college.”


  • “At the end of the day though, sometimes all the guidance you need is found waiting on a random street corner.”

  • “Pen and paper never lose battery power, and they’re discreet. You’d be surprised by the

    lesson-sharing moments you’ve witnessed and forgotten because you didn’t jot them down.”

  • “Traveling makes people feel better not just because of the escapades to be had in new horizons, but also because we’re re-triggered to share our life story—and hear someone else’s.”

  • “Kids are unpaid pros at keeping boredom at bay.”

  • “It’s not necessary to be rich to experience the best of what our world has to offer.”


  • “Nobody learns how to be a writer, nor a traveler. You make it happen.”

  • “Prevailing human instinct is often diluted by self-consciousness.”

  • Don looked at me and said, ‘Your best teacher is your last mistake.'”

  • “In an effort to dodge routine, I invent a new quest for every place I visit.”

  • “Dancing and lovemaking are two lingering quarters where humans can still be the animals they are by design.”

Read On The Wild Side

  • “Broadminded non-political solutions to the continuous warfare creeping into every shade of our planet won’t see the light until more travelers meet.”

  • “As you may expect, career travelers are often good at—or at least insistent upon—holding court, especially around tables of food or drink.”

  • “Patriotism should be redefined as improving every country, not just our own.”

  • “Give the hushed a voice—by listening”

  • “Sometimes we don’t even realize our favorite moments until they’ve passed.”


  • “The real measure of wealth is how much you’d be worth if you lost all your money.”

  • “Seize moments, set your gypsy blood afire, and discover insights you can’t find online.”

  • “I propose traveling as a poorest—gravitating to each country’s impoverished regions, because they need the cash and that’s often where the real fun hides.”

  • “There will be moments when you don’t know if you can visit a certain place. . . there will be a lifetime of knowing that you did.”

  • “If someone else’s’ barricades confine you, don’t surrender the lesson connected to it. Unsettling things happen. Move on. “

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