Chase Travels to Mexico and Guatemala: “Out of my comfort zone and into the wild”
For this Chase Travels story, we’re travelling across the Atlantic ocean once again. This time we're visiting two Latin American countries, Mexico and Guatemala, with Miek van Dijck. She's been travelling around the world since she was 17. Now she felt ready to travel alone, letting go of the fear of being on her own. She took five weeks off and hopped on a plane, hoping to find herself anew in an unknown country and through a reunion with the past.
Written by Chess Teugels and Miek van Dijck, photos by Miek van Dijck
“I needed to get out of my little bubble, out of my comfort zone and into the wild”, Miek explains. “So I planned a visit to the indigenous community I lived with 4 years ago in Guatemala.” She also seized the opportunity to visit Mexico for the first time in her life as “Mexico seemed close enough, but different enough to be adventurous.”
“I lost my heart to Latin America back in 2008 when I travelled to Peru with my former boyfriend at the time.” After that Miek travelled to Argentina and fulfilled an internship of six months in Guatemala. “During half a year I lived with Q'eqchi indians in the Guatemalan jungle. It was there that I learned my first words of Spanish, became involved in the culture and found myself.” When it was time to leave, she swore to herself that she would return there within the next five years. So she did in 2017.
She decided to discover Mexico first and started her journey in Mexico City. “I checked myself in at a crappy hotel without any Wi-Fi connection, and explored the city and its museums during the next days. Mexico City had this buzzing beehive vibe, even at four in the morning. But it was the typical Latin-America scent that made me smile. When the hot air with hints of freshly baked tortillas and juicy mangoes filled my nostrils, I knew I was home.”
After exploring Mexico City, she travelled to Mazunte, Oaxaca, San Cristobal and Palenque, to finally pursue her travels to Flores and Coban in Guatemala before taking her flight back home. She had visited Guatemala once before, but Mexico was uncharted territory.
“There's actually a big difference between the two countries", Miek explains. "You can notice it rightaway when it comes to the cuisine: they use the same raw materials as ingredients, but in Mexico everything is more refined. Mexico is also less expensive and more open to travellers. Although, both Mexicans and Guatemalan people are very social and they will try to please you. That's not always a good thing as they tend to beat around the bush.”
Because of its vastness, the different climates and the crazy amount of breathtaking sights, Miek feels like Mexico has something to offer for everyone. "You could go and spend Spring Break in Cancun, or you can choose to do some soul-searching in the rainforest of Palenque. I climbed mountains and ruins, hiked to waterfalls and handfed wild horses. I talked to almost everybody I met and learned a lot about Mexican culture. I tried everything on the menu and never got food poisoning once.”
The magnificent picture of the sea at Punta Cometa means a lot to Miek. "I cried there, because in that moment I couldn't share all that beauty with the people I love the most. Because I was standing there all by myself and realized how lucky I am for having all these opportunities and moments in my life. Regardless of the mental barriers in life I had to go up against many times."
After visiting Mexico, Miek went to the Guatemalan village that had been her home years ago, for a warm and welcome reunion. "The picture I took of the women plucking the chickens, is also close to my heart as these women were part of my host family in the Guatemalan jungle, four years ago. I’ve spent the six hardest and at the same time most beautiful months of my life with them.”
This was Miek's first time traveling solo. "I was a bit nervous, afraid that I would feel lonely. Newsflash: I did feel lonely, but I needed that. I learned to depend on myself, discovered what I am capable of and how life should never be taken too seriously.”
Needless to say this experience has had a profound influence on her. However, it's hard for her to find the words to describe how meaningful this trip was for her. "But I hope this will offer you a glimpse. So, go hop on a plane and explore Mexico, you won’t be disappointed! Oh, and maybe take me with you? I promise you I’m so much fun and over time I've also become fluent in Spanish!”
Like what you just saw and read here? Check out Miek's instagram for more!