Something I’ve always profoundly enjoyed is seeing a new city from the air for the first time. Following the grid of roads, houses, schools and cars without having had a single experience with the city or its people is so strange. All you have at that moment in time are your own preconceptions, your ideas of what the city should be and how its residents will act.

And then you land. All at once you are blasted with unfamiliar sounds, catch phrases of Spanish passing by quickly, subconsciously searching for logos and brands you recognize to grasp on to as you gain your bearings.

Landing in Guatemala City tonight was exhilarating. Leaving the airport, we were greeted with a cool summer breeze, the kind that puts me to sleep on backpacking trips with a whisper of peace and calm. The smell of exhaust and shouts of pleading Spanish brought me right back to Iquitos, Peru, the place where I learned that putting your elbows on the car windowsill is a privilege reserved exclusively for Americans.

The city was so clean, the people so vibrant. I was told many times over “don’t stay in the city, it’s dangerous”. I saw danger in the grids of roads and neighborhoods from the air, but from the road, I saw people and their community. This is why I travel.

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