9. The Markets – Guatemala has it all! The fruit here is some of the tastiest I have ever eaten. The variety of vegetables is amazing. Before moving to Guatemala, I had sworn off bananas. I couldn’t stand their mealy texture and bland taste. Now making fresh banana smoothies with hand roasted cacao beans is an almost daily occurrence. The produce here is not only delicious and readily available – it is inexpensive and makes healthy eating a pleasure and a great way to stay on budget.

8. The Variety – For being a country about the size of Tennessee, it sure packs a punch with the variety of terrain, culture, and climate. Due to the differences in elevation, Guatemala has an amazing variety of micro climates ranging from the hot and humid black sand beaches to the mountainous chilly highlands. With over 23 indigenous Mayan languages still in existence, you just have to travel an hour or so to find an entirely different language spoken, with different local dress and customs. Hidden waterfalls, mangroves, and ruins still are waiting to be explored and the next surprise is always around the corner.

7. Friendly People – Guatemala, despite being a developing nation, continues to rank highly as one of the happiest countries on Earth. I can attest to the fact that as a foreigner living as a guest in the country, I have felt welcome and have had no trouble making connections and friends with a variety of local Guatemalans. I am constantly surprised at how a local Guatemalan shop keeper will go out of her way to point me in the right direction if I’m lost. Usually she’ll physically walk me to the correct location, with a smile. If there is no room at the inn, no worries, the owner’s grandma lives down the street and you can just stay with her where fresh tortillas and frijoles are awaiting your arrival. These types of delightful interactions are not rare – they are an almost daily occurrence in this friendly country.

6. Beauty – The Guatemalan landscape is truly a marvel. I wake up to see the Volcan Fuego puffing out clouds of white smoke, while two more volcanoes majestically rest in the backdrop. Sometimes Nature even puts on its own fireworks show, with the volcanoes spewing bright red lava eruptions at night. From taking a refreshing breath in the lush tropical jungles or sitting on my surfboard in the middle of the Pacific watching the pink and orange sunset as I await my next wave – I often reflect on just how lucky I am to live in such a beautiful and alive place.

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