If you want to get to the heart of Guatemalan matters, consider volunteer work. Opportunities abound, from caring for abandoned animals to writing grant applications to tending fields. Travelers with specific skills such as nurses, doctors, teachers and website designers are particularly encouraged to investigate volunteering in Guatemala.
Most volunteer posts require basic or better Spanish skills and a minimum time commitment. Depending on the organization, you may have to pay for room and board for the duration of your stay. Before making a commitment, you may want to talk to past volunteers and read the fine print associated with the position.
An excellent source of information on volunteer opportunities is Quetzaltenango-based EntreMundos. You only have to visit their websites to see the huge range of volunteer opportunities that exist. Many language schools have close links to volunteer projects and can introduce you to the world of volunteering. The best worldwide site for volunteer positions (with many Guatemala listings) is www.idealist.org.
Some travelers find work in bars, restaurants and places to stay in Antigua, Panajachel or Quetzaltenango, but the wages are just survival pay. If you're looking to crew a yacht, there's always work being offered around the Río Dulce area, sometimes for short trips, sometimes to the States and further afield. Check noticeboards for details.
If you’ve ever thought about living and working in Guatemala, then why not teach English as a foreign language (TEFL)? It could be the key to funding your travels and experiencing new cultures in a totally new way. You don’t need teaching experience or even the ability to speak the local language – although you might learn it while you’re out there.