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X-Phase is a portion of the trip where the student’s get to plan where we go, where we stay, what we eat, and what we do. Because we didn’t use up all of our flex time, we were given three days to go wherever and do whatever we wanted. We were given a total of three hours to plan everything and used our freetime to plan everything else.

After about two hours of intense discussion and research, we decided to go to Xela (Guatemala’s second biggest city) because it was a perfect jumping off point to go on day hikes to volcanos and explore more urban and populated parts of Guatemala.

To get to Xela, it was a long day of travel that included stopping in Chichicastenango to explore one of the biggest markets in Guatemala that happened on Sundays. The stalls were filled with vibrant huipiles and trinkets available to buy. We all thought the market was beautiful, but were completely thrown off by how many tourists we saw. In our last town that we stayed in, we were probably the only tourists staying in that town! This was a completely different experience for us and almost all of us preferred markets that were catered to locals.

After Chichi, we took another bus to our hostel in Xela. As we pulled up, we stopped at the gorgeous Parque Central filled with locals hanging out by the fountains and vendors selling delicious tacos and pupusas. We immediately thought that we made the right decision to come!

We settled into our hostel and then went out for dinner. We dined on scrumptious street food and sodas from glass bottles. That night we fell asleep early and fast to prepare for our packed schedule the next day.

We woke up bright and early the next morning at 4:30 to hike to a viewpoint to see Santiaguito, a small very active volcano. Although we didn’t get to see it erupt, we did see smoke coming from multiple holes. We ate breakfast looking over the fog filled mountains!

After the hike, we went to hot springs called Fuentes Georginas. It felt amazing to soak in the warm green water in the mountains after a hike. Again that night we had street food because how could we resist!

The next morning we slept in and had a leisurely breakfast, but because some people were feeling sick, we decided to take private transportation instead of the public chicken buses. We were all so thankful for a flexible itinerary because it allowed us to change plans to work for everyone. We then set off on our way to go to transference on the lake!

But before we got to our transference location, we stopped in Panajachel to explore the city for an hour. We perused the shops and stalls and purchased our last minute trinkets for friends and family. We walked down the streets and again observed so many tourists! We thought the town was cool but still longed for more of an authentic experience.

Our X-Phase came to a close as we pulled up to our house on the lake. We all were grinning at check-in that night because we were so proud of what we had accomplished and planned. We had collaborated as a group and been instructors for three days. We all wished we had five days to plan ourselves!