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  • UF Chi Omega

Throwing Caution to the Wind

I’ve always been one for hobbies. Painting, jewelry making, writing – you name it, I’ve done it. Recently, though, I’ve expanded my interests. My newest pursuit is quite simple: I open a private tab on my laptop, and I browse Google Flights.

As I practiced my new favorite pastime in early January, I came across startlingly cheap flights from Orlando to Guatemala City. So, I texted my roommate (Chi Omega’s very own Brenna Dupries) and we booked our tickets a few hours later. Neither of us truly grasped what we had just done, laughing at our spur-of-the-moment decision to drop everything and go to a foreign country for a weekend. 

We planned next to nothing, booking our hostel a matter of days before departure. Our flight departed early Friday morning, and we were jammed into the back of a Guatemalan taxi by noon. Our destination was Antigua, a picturesque backpacking hotspot nestled in an active volcano range. After checking into our hostel with a single stuffed carry-on, we set off into the heart of the city. 

The days were characterized by shopping and exploring, dancing through colonial Spanish streets dotted with local vendors, artisans, and an impressive number of cafés. We ventured through street markets and learned the art of bartering, procuring jewelry and textiles as a testament to our journey. (A pesar de que hablo español, definitivamente pagué demasiado. Oops.) 

Every evening, Antigua residents converge on the iconic Catedral de Santiago to sell local street delicacies, so we joined them. We ate taquitos and elote while watching thousands of lives intersect in front of our eyes. Everyone was from somewhere new, there for a different reason. European secondary school graduates on solo-travel trips before committing to university, spiritualists on journeys of self-discovery – and us, two Floridian gringas fortunate enough to only have class twice a week. 

We climbed to a lookout point Saturday evening and began chatting with a group of backpackers. We made friends with Swedes and Dutchmen, Germans and Brits. The night was spent exploring Antigua together, united for a shining moment like ships in the night. 

Antigua sits among the Sierra Madre mountains in the shadow of twin volcanoes, Acatenango and Volcán Fuego. Our new backpacker friends shared their experience, begging us to go for ourselves. 

So, in the name of spontaneity, we climbed a volcano.

I won't sugarcoat this. Climbing that volcano was the second hardest physical task I have ever attempted. (Going down was the first hardest. Mostly because I fell down the volcano. For 3 hours straight. If you want details, I won’t be giving them. It wasn’t pretty. But it was kind of funny.)

Imagine using the Stairmaster on incline 12 for 5 hours straight. Now add roots, sand, and dirt... you’re getting the picture. We climbed for hours before reaching the summit, immediately forgetting the harrowing climb. There is a pure, unadulterated beauty in nature, and watching a volcano erupt before your eyes captures it perfectly. We sat entranced on the side of a cliff, caked in dirt but rich in experience, not quite ready to go home. 

On our returning flight Tuesday, I couldn’t help but reflect. In such a short period, I learned more than I could’ve imagined. I gained newfound confidence and deepened friendships, a mild addiction to street corn and a particularly wild tan line on my left shoulder.

Most importantly, this trip taught me that life is so rich, and we are so privileged to be able to live it. Money can be made again, but I’ll never again be young and in college with the world’s most flexible and customizable schedule. Armed with savings from 19 birthdays and a high-school job, I want to see it all. The world is wide and I’m hungry for it, starved for culture and art and language. 

As I write this, I have an extra tab open to scour international flights. Colombia, anyone?


Hailey Indigo, MC22

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