Working as a Massage Therapist in Guatemala

Odds are that at some point in your life, you have stumbled upon a place that seemed perfect, representing some version of paradise.  Perhaps it was the climate, the sea, the ocean, or the people that you met, but the place inspired in you a longing to linger.  San Pedro de Laguna, Guatemala sits on the shores of the magnificent crater lake, Lago de Atitlan which is ringed by 3 volcanoes. The lake is a striking azure against a perpetually cloudless sky.  Sitting atop an extinct volcano, the area offers almost unobstructed 360 degree panoramic views of sunsets.  The population is mostly indigenous, and their native dress is a technicolour explosion of indigo, purple and red.  San Pedro has been slowing down travellers for decades and has developed a sizeable community of expats who have all decided this is the one place in the world they want to stay. San Pedro is special in that not only are there a plethora of reasons to stay here, there are also many ways to stay here.  Many foreigners have successfully opened hotels, restaurants, cafes, bars, and spas.  San Pedro has also become a holistic centre in Guatemala, hosting a few spas and therapists that offer massage, steam, sauna, and other natural remedies.

I had the good fortune of meeting Tami, an Israeli massage therapist living and working in San Pedro. She had been travelling and living overseas for 25 years.  You could safely say that she has wanderlust.  Tami was happily travelling the world when a friend invited her to spend Christmas in San Pedro.  For her, the mountains, lake, and work/life balance seemed ideal.  The expat community was also ideally suited to her.  She felt like she could be herself here, and quickly lost the desire to leave and discover the next destination.  She has been here ever since.


The intersection near Tami’s clinic. Her sign is the yellow one. To find her, just ask around. Everyone knows her.


Tami’s practice is located off one of the main pedestrian alleys.  At the intersection there is a cluster of restaurants and cafes and a yellow sign  pointing to Tami’s clinic.  A one minute walk down an alley leads to her clinic. Tami’s clinic offers Swedish massage, hot stone massage, reflexology, and healing with crystals.  She also teaches all these techniques in multi-day workshops.  Once you get to San Pedro, she is pretty easy to find, as everybody knows everybody.  To make arrangements ahead of time, you can visit her Facebook page: or call her at 4225-7121.


Sign for Tami’s Clinic


The market in San Pedro is primarily made up of travellers who spend only a few days in town.  Serving transient customers changed the nature of her work.  Back home in Israel, she could easily arrange clients to follow a treatment plan of 10 weekly that would target and treat their ailments.  It was simple to build up a repeat client base and achieve results.  In San Pedro, the majority of customers are travellers that are only there for a solitary dose of pampering or therapy before leaving for the next town.  In these single treatments it is difficult to achieve real, lasting results.  However, sometimes, travellers are physically in such dire straits that they don’t have a choice but to stay and get regular treatments over a couple of weeks.

Tami is fortunate enough to own her home where she runs her practice. Property ownership can be one of the trickiest parts of the equation.  Neighbouring El Salvador allows a maximum 49% ownership of real estate or business, meaning that foreigners can never have a controlling interest in their business.  Other countries, like Thailand, do not allow foreigners to own any real estate.  Ownership there means marrying a local or having trustworthy local business associates that have exclusive legal title to the business.  Luckily, Guatemala has more attractive laws which allow foreigners to own land and property outright without citizenship, residency or local investors.  Business permits are also fairly straightforward to acquire.  When you open a business in Guatemala, it is all legally yours.

San Pedro offers a great combination of a developed expat community, a steady flow of tourists, favourable real estate and business ownership laws, but most importantly a beautiful, friendly, culturally fascinating place to live.  There are many other ideal locales around the world waiting to be discovered by you.  Keeps your eyes open, you never know when you will discover your new home.