There comes a point in any backpacking trip when the obligatory introductions get really worn out, and you just can't bring yourself to listen very hard to where people live and how they got here and where they were before this and where they're going next since you know it's all going to blend together anyway, and you'll probably forget everything five minutes into the conversation. It was a nice change when, at one hostel in San Juan del Sur, we agreed to skip that stuff and didn't even learn each other's names until two days into the visit. We still shared plenty of stories and joked a lot, and our time together seemed to offer a deeper and more enjoyable connection than when you're talking just to talk and your consciousness feels like a floating alien presence watching your mouth go through the motions of trying to detail how long each bus ride was or how many days you spent in which part of the country.
Guatemala has been like that, too. Once I've stopped looking up and tripping over stone streets long enough to go into a place, everyone I've talked to has felt like a familiar friend. I've noticed that here, versus in Granada, the expat community seems to be a bit younger and more in favor of befriending locals. I enjoy seeing this blend, where foreigners have come to fully participate in the culture rather than create their own separate scene. Antigua's parks and plazas make it feel European, but the colors, crafts, and markets remind of the indigenous peoples who were here long before. The air is fresh and crisp, and there's a whole bunch of beauty to breathe in.