It’s been over 150 days since I left the U.S. this round. It’ll be around 180 by the time I set foot on U.S. soil again in a month. But this time I have a return flight back to Guatemala, so this trip is actually just a visit. It’s the first round trip flight I’ve bought since Christmas 2013. That’s been quite a thing to wrap my head around.
Of the time I’ve been abroad, it’s been over 100 days since I arrived in Antigua. I always knew this phase of Travel Abrodge would be different, but I think with 65% of my time being spent in one place it’s safe to call it my expat phase.
Expat life is very different from travel life. I still consider myself a traveler, but I now have ties to somewhere that I haven’t had in years. I can recommend the best weekend activities, the locals’ favorite beers, nightlife according to your mood instead of the hostel flyers, and hidden gems for cheap eats that aren’t mentioned in Lonely Planet. Things that I searched for and thrived on when living in San Francisco and NYC are popping up again here. And this time I’m finding myself in a better position to share that knowledge – as a bartender.
When I work at the little front bar at Cafe No Se I am not just someone pouring drinks, I am a visitor’s guide to Antigua. Where can I get a quesadilla? Where can I dance on a Saturday night? Is the volcano hike worth it? The amount of questions I am asked about this town multiplies every night I work, and I am happy to actually know the answers.
When I’m not at work, when I’m just going about my daily life in town, or when I’m walking the dogs, I have places I want to return to or test out for the first time or just stop into for an errand. And on the way I run into people I know. Small town Antigua is like living on Nob Hill again – impossible to venture outside without saying hi to someone.
I went to brunch with a group of girls friends on Sunday. I’m going to the beach with all the Lucky bartenders for two days next week. These are things that I used to do regularly before traveling, and they’re back in my life now just in a different place with different people. It’s the things that I missed back in October when I started to think about settling down somewhere for a bit.
This the longest I’ve stayed anywhere since I left San Francisco back in May of 2014. I don’t know the next time I’ll be somewhere for as long as this, but I also don’t know when I’ll leave here. People like to ask me that too: “How long will you be in Antigua?” My typical answer: “Ask me when I leave.”