Diaries of a Hanger Around: Is it Still Called Traveling if I Haven’t Moved for Six Months?

By Lars Capozo

As for most, Xela was supposed to be a short stop on my journey elsewhere. I arrived the first evening to find that the weather was nice enough, so I stayed another night. On my second day, I tried a pupusa in the park and, afraid that they might not be as readily accessible in Lanquin, I stayed another week. Having spent far too much of my travel budget on other unidentified (but indescribably delicious) fried objects at the market stalls, I decided it was time to find a job, so I stayed another month.

Then it all becomes a blur. I’m not sure how it happened, but six months later I’m sitting in my apartment writing this while seriously considering settling down in Xela with the pupusa woman from El Calvario (oh, the things she can do with her hands). I guess I’m just hanging around.

The identity crisis started in earnest last weekend, when I made the mistake of traveling to San Marcos. While trying to enjoy the beautiful scenery, I was surrounded by a pack of super-flexible sociopaths intent on forcibly realigning my chakras. All I could think was “I want to go home”. I realized moments later that by “home”, I meant Xela. So where does that leave me? Us? The “hangers-around”? On the one hand, we’re foreign enough to be charged the gringo rate on a chicken bus, yet, on the other, local enough to sing along with the fabulous reggaeton selection they’re playing. We’re local enough to know the weekly schedule at La Parranda and Kokolokos by heart, but foreign enough to sometimes actually want to go. Who are we, these half-gringo, half Super Chivos who wander around Xela looking slightly more disheveled and/or busier than the average traveler?

To be honest, I’m not sure any of us can answer that question. We all, however, will probably have plenty more time in Xela to think about it. That’s right, whether we’re staying to complete our eighth month of Spanish school (“tomorrow I will finally go to class sober… Tomorrow.”), desperately committed to fighting poverty in Guatemala through our non-specific and usually redundant NGO of choice, or just curious about how many times you can postpone a ticket before the airline just gives up on you and cancels it, we’re not going anywhere soon. Besides, somehow and often in spite of itself, this town just grows on you. Be warned summer travelers… and start looking into apartments for the fall.

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