Meet our Intern, Hannah and Learn How She Became Introduced To Travel

Meet our Intern, Hannah and Learn How She Became Introduced To Travel

I’m beyond excited to be one of Greenheart Travel’s new interns! Since we’re all about intercultural exchange and traveling abroad around here, I’ll give you a little background on my travel history.


Playing with the daughter of the family we were building for on the spring break build my junior year of high school

I’m from a relatively small town in the beautiful state of Oregon. My father is a college professor at a small liberal arts college there. When I was growing up he would take students abroad for semesters in Mexico and my sister and I got live with him in Cuernavaca and then Oaxaca. Because of this, I got contracted the travel bug early and got an ear for Spanish. This feels so long ago- I would love to go and revisit some of the places I have memories of now that I am older. I remember drinking hot chocolate in the beautiful Zocalo in Oaxaca and seeing how many pyramids I could run up and down on our many field trips with the college students.

In High School I did a spring break trip with my dad and some of his students to build houses in Guatemala through Habitat for Humanity. When I was there I talked with some of the people at Habitat and they invited me to volunteer with them after I graduated high school. I knew I wanted to attend college, but I figured it could wait a year so I accepted. I got into DePaul University, deferred for a year and then a week after high school graduation my best friend and I were on a plane to Guatemala City to volunteer for the year.

The first month was rough because there was some transition going on in the office, and Guatemala City isn ’t the safest of places to reside. Once I moved to Quetzaltenango (better known as Xela) things came together. Xela is the 2nd largest city in Guatemala and is home to many language schools and volunteer programs so there are more people from other countries there than Guatemala city, but fewer tourists than the more well-known city of Antigua. I became a profiles volunteer with Habitat which meant I used the  local “chicken buses” (old school buses that they painted brilliant colors and replaced the engines) and hopped on the back of a motor bike to ride around the rural areas of Xela, San Marcos and neighboring departamentos to interview families that Habitat teams or masons had built houses for. I got to ask them about their stories, what they did for a living, about their families what their previous living arrangements were. A few of them  I got to see where they had been living before and it really puts some perspective on what we consider “bad” living arrangements here in the USA. I asked them how their new house had changed their lives and got to witness the appreciation and relief felt for having a safe, sturdy, private home. I would write up their stories to send to the team who had helped build their house or to donors for them to see the effect they were having on these people’s lives.  I also got to go along on some builds and help translate for some American teams who volunteered their time to build Habitat homes which was always fun.

I first lived with an awesome host family and then later moved into my own apartment. My host mom was an awesome lady who ran a lavandaria (Laundromat) out of the house and my host dad was a quirky taxi driver who loved to tell me metaphoric stories and give me life and dating advice. I had 2 host sisters and one host brother who were all older than me. They were great, but I eventually wanted to try living on my own. I rented a room that was an old barbershop so one wall of my apartment used to open to the street. The bathroom was a little closet under the stairs and my kitchen was just a simple gas stove, sink and refrigerator. I really didn’t think much about where I lived until I got back to the USA where I once again had heat, carpet, a pillow top mattress,  an oven etc. I think as Americans especially, we don’t often think about all the “stuff” and amenities we have that are there for comfort, but are not things we NEED.

My whole year in Guatemala really set me up to be the traveler that I am today. I learned that I could overcome obstacles and make friends and connections all on my own in situations completely outside my previous comfort zone. When I left Guatemala I was 18 and had lived in a foreign country, worked abroad and learned a new language. It gave me confidence that I could pretty much survive and adjust no matter where I went even if I was on my own. It is probably the most valuable thing I have learned in life thus far.


One of my American teams building for a family in Coban in 2010

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