More info about the February trip

Thanks so much for your interest in the February Service Adventure.  We have included lots of information here, organized by the topics listed in the menu below. If you have any questions, please get in touch.

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What is the typical daily schedule?

Each day will begin with a hearty breakfast at the hostel. On our service days, we will work from about 8:00 until 4:00 with a break for lunch. When we are not volunteering, we will start with a morning excursion, enjoy lunch at a local restaurant, and then continue exploring in the afternoon. Each evening we will have dinner together and then will gather for an evening program.

What is the weather like?

The weather is beautiful! In February, we will enjoy sunny, 75-85 degrees days and cool and comfortable nights. It is possible that we might also experience a light rain and some windy afternoons, but this will not prevent us from being outside. Lake Atitlán is about a mile above sea level.

How will we dress throughout the trip?

During our service days, we will dress conservatively as we will be working and learning alongside Guatemalans. Your shoulders and knees will need to be covered, so a t-shirt and jeans or capris will be perfect work clothes. During our time in Antigua, you may wear your regular spring/summer clothes. Please see the packing list for more details.

Will I be able to do laundry?

No. You should follow the packing list and plan to bring enough clothes to last throughout the adventure. You will need fewer clothes than you think!

Will there be any free time?

Every evening there will be free time at the hostel once all programs have ended for the day. During service days and while we are on excursions, you must stay with the group. Toward the end of the week, there will be several clearly defined times when you and two or more friends can enjoy free time within certain areas (the hostel, a café, a shopping area, etc.).

Is there a curfew?

Yes. The students and the trip leader will discuss and agree to evening scheduling which includes quiet hours and the time when students need to be in their own room with the lights off. Additionally, we will follow all rules posted at the hostel and will be sure to respect the needs of other guests as well as other members of our group. Please note that once our evening program is finished, students are not allowed to leave our hostel at night for any reason.


How much spending money should I bring?

For most people, $50-$75 will go a long way toward buying souvenir-type bracelets, scarves, t-shirts, etc. If you would like to purchase a lot of gifts or if you plan to buy artisan-quality weavings, paintings, textiles, etc., you should budget more.

What is the Guatemalan currency and how can I get it?

The Guatemalan Quetzal (GTQ) is the national currency. The easiest way for teens traveling without a parent to get quetzales is to bring crisp, flat, new U.S. dollars and exchange them at the airport. If you have a debit card and are looking for a better exchange rate, you can use an ATM; bring two different debit cards in case one is not accepted, and be sure that your debit card has a four-digit PIN. Please note that ATMs are not always dependable. Most vendors in the town where we will be staying only accept cash; however you should be able to use a credit card in many shops in Antigua. If you plan to use your cards, remember to tell you bank that you will be traveling.


Are any immunizations required for travel to Guatemala?

No immunizations are required to enter the country. The organization we will partner with for our service suggests that volunteers have the Hepatitis A vaccine and a current tetanus shot. If parents are medical professionals and wish to volunteer in their clinic Hepatitis B is also suggested. Since we will only be traveling to Lake Atitlan and Antigua you do NOT need malaria medication. Worlds of Light advises you to consult with a travel doctor or your family physician for recommendations regarding your specific medical situation.

How should I pack my medications?

Participants may bring the medications and treatments that are indicated on their Health Information and Permissions Form. Medications must be in the original packaging/bottle that identifies the prescribing physician (if it is a prescription), the name of the medication, the dosage, and the frequency of administration.

Where is the nearest health center?

When we are in in Antigua, the closest hospital is in Antigua about 20 minutes away. When we are at the lake, the closest hospital is in Sololá, about an hour and a half away. If a situation arises beyond what can be treated locally, participants will be evacuated for medical treatment. While limited international emergency medical insurance for each participant is included in the cost of this trip, parents are ultimately responsible for all related costs of medical treatment including co-pays and/or any balances that insurance does not cover.

What type of medical insurance is included in the program fee? Do I need additional insurance?

All participants are required to have health insurance and will be asked to provide their health insurance information as part of the registration process. The program fee includes limited international medical insurance and medical evacuation insurance through TravelGuard. You and your parents will have the opportunity to review the policy and determine if your family would like to supplement the provided policy with additional insurance. As stated above, parents are ultimately responsible for all related costs of medical treatment including co-pays and/or any balances that insurance does not cover.

What about stomach issues?

We eat at places that cater to travelers and offer the highest health standards possible. However, given the environment, some people do experience traveler’s diarrhea. Symptoms can range from just a squiggly-belly feeling to severe cramping and loose stools. Usually this resolves within one to three days. We will have Imodium A-D on hand and can administer it if needed on travel days to those students who have permission to take this over-the-counter medication. Some travelers like to take Grapefruit Seed Extract, charcoal tablets, or Pepto Bismol if they have stomach issues. Please talk to your doctor about specific recommendations for your situation.

Are there any other health concerns in the region?

Recently there have been several cases of Dengue and Chikungunya reported around Lake Atitlan. This is new. We do take precautions against mosquito transmitted illnesses as outlined in the CDC guidance even though we are traveling during the dry season when there are far fewer bugs. We advise you to speak to your health provider or travel clinic about your situation.

Is there really a ZERO tolerance policy for drugs and alcohol?

YES! Please read the Community Understandings thoroughly and make sure that you can abide by all of the expectations including the zero tolerance policy for drugs and alcohol. You and your parents must understand that if you were to violate the policy, you would be sent home, at your parents' expense, even if there were only one day left in the program.

Is there anything that might surprise me when I get to Guatemala?

You can not flush toilet paper in Guatemala. Instead, there will be trash baskets by every toilet.

I really want to go on this trip, but I'm not sure if my anxiety will be triggered. Do you have any suggestions?

Please, talk to us before you apply, so we can better understand your concerns. While students (and adults) with mild anxiety have traveled successfully with us, we are not able to support those with severe anxiety. Over the years, we have found that clearly naming potential triggers is helpful for students and families as they decide whether this is the right trip for them. So... Since this program primarily takes place outdoors and in more rustic conditions than you might be used to, we are not often a good choice for students with anxiety related to insects, dirt, sanitation, or other realities of the outdoors. Students with anxeity related to transportation (flying, road conditions, not always having seat belts, boat travel and the possibility of rough water, etc.) might find aspects of this adventure challenging. Also, a high degree of flexibility is required on this trip, and those who prefer a predictable environment, might want to choose another program. Lastly, since we ask that students not bring their phones/devices, it's important that you do not need to be in frequent contact with family and friends to feel okay.

We encourage you to get in touch and tell us about your situation.


Can I bring my phone?

We request that all students leave their devices at home. We have found that phones, etc. tend to distract participants from work projects, cultural exchange opportunities, and team building and often serve to pull participants' focus away from the purpose of the program. Team leaders will have Guatemalan cell phones and international cell phones with them at all times for emergency purposes. Adult participants are requested to enjoy a week unplugged with their teen. However, we understand that there might be a need to stay connected for work purposes. If that is the case, we ask that adults only use their phones when they are in their rooms in the early morning and after all programming has ended in the evening. Please note that wifi is often spotty and slow. If you need to bring something in order entertain yourself during down-time or travel, we'd recommend something that involves others like cards or a soccer ball. Other suggestions would be a book, journal, and/or art supplies.

I am taking an online class. How will I be able to keep up with my work when I am in Guatemala?

Given our past experience accommodating online classes, we strongly advise you to contact your teacher and arrange your academic schedule so that you do not have to post while you are in Guatemala. If you feel this is not possible, please get in touch with us and we'll discuss your specific situation.

Do I need to bring a voltage adapter for my camera charger?

Guatemala has the same electric current as the US, so you don't need voltage transformers or socket adapters (the standard voltage is 120 V and the standard frequency is 60 Hz). You can plug your camera charger directly in the wall.

How will friends and family back home be able to follow our adventures?

Our days will be full, and so those back home should assume that no news is good news and that all is well. Program leaders will send parents a "safe arrival" email, and will do their best to post a few pictures and send personal email updates to parents throughout the week. Often participants share their photos with one another at the end of the trip.

What if I get homesick?

Missing friends and family and wishing for comfort of your own bed and familiar food are common feelings while traveling. Packing your favorite nutritious snacks (and maybe a few not-so-nutritious treats!) can help ease the desire for the known, and writing in your journal about your adventures is a good way to capture stories to share with your friends and family when you return home. If you are feeling homesick while you are away, please know that your Trip Leaders are always available for support.


Can the program accommodate specific diets?

Most participants love the food on this trip! We are able to offer a vegetarian option at every meal. While gluten-free, dairy-free, and/or vegan participants have traveled very successfully with us in the past, it can be challenging, and travelers with these requirements should know that they will not have access to the same variety of food as vegetarians and omnivores. We want to be sure that students are well nourished and so there are three things we ask if you want to or need to minimize gluten, sugar, and/or animal products: please be prepared to 1). supplement your worksite and transit day snacks with your own protein bars that meet your dietary needs, 2). take personal responsibility for your food choices as we are not in the position to monitor whether you follow your parent's/doctor's guidance, 3). eat lots of beans, even for breakfast. Since we rely on women hired by our community partners to prepare many of our meals, we cannot guarentee the safety of their kitchens for those with celiac or allergies to other trace foods. However, the cooks do their best to accomodate our requests, and students with celiac have traveled with us. If you have nut allergies, please talk to us about your needs before applying.

What water will we be drinking?

The water in Guatemala is non-potable, so we will be drinking filtered water and bottled water throughout the entire trip. Unlimited drinking water will be available each day.


Where will we be swimming?

We will be swimming in Lake Atitlán from the dock at our hotel and at the Cerro Tzankujil Nature Reserve in San Marcos La Laguna. Parents must indicate on the Health Information and Permissions Form whether their child is a competent, developing or non-swimmer. If you are a “Non-swimmer” you must bring and wear your own life jacket while playing in the water, traveling by lancha (boat), and/or paddling. Only those students who receive permission on the Health Information and Permissions Form are allowed to jump into the Lake from the platform located in the nature reserve. If you don’t have permission to jump from the platform, you can simply step into the water from a nearby location. Youth participants on the February Service Adventure are only allowed to swim under adult supervision.

What types of transportation will we use?

We will hire private vans and buses for long drives, and we will use both private and public boats to get around Lake Atitlán. During our service days, we may be transported in vehicles owned or hired by the volunteer organization, including pick up trucks. We also might hire small, three-wheeled vehicles called tuk-tuks for short trips around town. Most of the time we will be on foot!

I really want to go to Guatemala, but I’m not excited about the service component and all the “connection” stuff. Should I apply?

No--it doesn’t sound as though this trip is a good match for you. Service is the main theme of the program, and we will be spending most days in the hot sun, building houses and stoves and finding ways to connect with others. To have a successful trip, you need to be able to approach service with an open-heart, a willingness to engage, and determination to work very, very hard. If you aren’t genuinely motivated by the purpose of the trip, it would be best if you look for another opportunity.


Students on the 2019 trip were asked: "What advice would you give to next year's participants?" Here's what they said:

Stay positive! Just be open to learning and new things. Be open to everything, even things you're bad at--laugh at yourself and be willing to make mistakes. Pack old clothes to ruin. Bring activities to do with the kids. Definitely bring less than you would expect. Be open! Know that everything is flexible (plan-wise) and just roll with it. Have fun, work hard, do everything you can. Pack only what you need. Have a fully open mind Be ready to learn as well as work. Embrace the no phone. Be present. Be inclusive. GO!! Have fun! I would advise future participants to prepare themselves by staying active physically before the trip. It will be worthwhile once you get there!

What about the students from the 2016 trip?

Practice a little bit of Spanish Learn some Spanish before hand Pack light. Be open minded and explore... Bring lots of sun lotion. Be prepared for some slightly new food experiences Come knowing a little more Spanish, and take more photos than you think is necessary. Always be flexible and pace yourself. Don't be afraid to communicate. Maybe we could organize a Spanish curriculum prior to leaving. Have an open mind going in and be respectful of the locals customs. Know some basic Spanish phrases before you leave, a lot of people do not speak English Have enough work clothes. Be open. Open your eyes and let it all in Learn as much Spanish as you can before you go.

What did the February 2017 group suggest?

Be respectful of the cultures that you are entering and be respectful of the other participants.
Come with an open mind and honor that you may encounter difficulties as well as joys.
Be open minded to everything and go into the trip with a positive mindset Be present Definitely come with an open mind to everything and try to have fun with all the work you do. If there's a chance, always play with the kids. They're really amazing! Have an open mind, be respectful, and take time to journal and take photos. Keep an open mind! Don't get caught up in what everyone else is doing and have your own experience. Bring an open mind, a flexible attitude, a smile, and jump in. Be very open to just about anything ~ from poverty level to hippies to how people act.
Try to make friends with locals. It will make your trip better instead of just playing with your friends from home. Wear sunscreen!

What advice did the April, 2017 team offer?

Bring fewer clothes! Drink lots of water. Understand it is okay to take breaks. Be open to change: in activities, weather etc. Don't overpack, and expect a lot of work! To be open to go with the flow and accept change. I suggest packing a lot of snacks because you will get hungry when volunteering!
You should also definitely make use of the sheet we were given because knowing even a little Spanish helps.

Ready to go on the February Service Trip?

"I have been on multiple trips with Worlds of Light and I come home from each feeling revived and inspired. The community members and other people I have had the chance to connect with are awe-inspiring."

-Student, 2016, 2017, 2019

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"My heart is full.  Thank you!"

-Parent Participant, 2017