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About Us

Valerie Russell, Founder, CEO, Due South Travels

Valerie Russell, Chief Experience Officer

At Due South Travels, we believe in sharing our passion for international travel and strengthening your desire to learn about other cultures. With twenty years of travel experience and over 40 countries visited, our founder and Chief Experience Officer, Valerie, decided to leave the constraints of a regular job and follow her dream to live abroad. 

A native of Nyack, New York, Val was educated in Washington, DC, and Bournemouth, England and settled down in the New York metro area, prepared for a career in law enforcement.  After a decade of working to travel, Val decided to finally live the life she had been dreaming about and quit her job as a Narcotic Investigator to start Due South Travels.  She arrived in Guatemala in July 2017 and now lives in Antigua with her two expat felines.

For Val, giving in to the wanderlust was the easy part.  The challenge of changing careers and learning a new industry has been nothing short of an adventure all its own, just the thing Val thrives on!

Our goal at Due South Travels is to expand your horizons with thorough, custom tours throughout Guatemala, at a price point that makes travel accessible to people who never imagined it was possible. We specialize in day tours in and around Antigua, and also informational tours for those who are looking to relocate or retire to the "Land of the Eternal Spring", which includes meeting other expats to hear exactly how amazing and rewarding a life abroad can be. Lastly, we provide complete in-country travel planning for independent travelers who need a trustworthy, organized trip but are not interested in traveling with a guide.

Traveling abroad can be one of the most rewarding and eye-opening experiences of your life.  We want to help you see a different way of life, we want to bring you to the places you've only seen in photos, and we want you to think differently about life outside of your comfort zone.  Come travel with us and live the life that you've imagined.

Valerie Russell in Santa Catarina Palopo

Meet the Team

Julio Valdez,
Director of Operations

Julio was born and raised in Antigua, Guatemala and studied agronomy at university with a speciality in coffee production. His interest in the travel industry began organically by forming friendships with the many foreigners who have relocated to Antigua and now call it home. Julio enjoys staying active, climbing volcanoes, and always has some dog food in his backpack to feed the street dogs. He manages Due South’s day to day operations and logistics, and will likely be the person you speak with on the phone. Julio lives with his two rescued cats, and one day hopes to walk the Camino de Santiago.

Julio Valdez, Director of Operations

Becky Nicholls de Rocha, Relocation Services Specialist

Becky was born in New Zealand, spent a lot of time in Australia and identifies very strongly as a Antipodean. However, a chance trip via Guatemala to Sydney on her way home from London in 2006 uncovered a deep seated affection for Latin America, specifically Guatemala. Guiding extensively through Mexico, Central America, Colombia and Venezuela Becky appreciates, and enjoys to the fullest the complexities of these unique countries. Finally settling in Guatemala, she lives with her husband Victor and straight up street dog, Benji in Guatemala City.

Becky Nicholls de Rocha, Relocation Services Specialist
Claudia Arriaza, Administrative Specialist

Claudia Arriaza,
Administrative Specialist

Claudia is a mother, archaeologist and entrepreneur. During her career she has participated in research related to the Late Classic Mayan area, in the lowland region. She has also had the opportunity to live and work with the Q'eqchi' communities. Originally from Guatemala City,  she currently lives in Antigua. She has enjoyed setting up workshops that link tourism,  archeology and cultural issues in the local community. She enjoys nature, culture, concerts, art exhibitions and being part of socially conscious endeavors.

Guillermo Montoya,
General Guide

Guillermo was born and raised in Guatemala and calls Antigua home. He has traveled throughout North, South and Central America, India and parts of Europe. His first intercultural experience took place in North Dakota and Canada as an exchange student.  Guillermo works to support independent coffee farmers and the artisan community and leads programs throughout Central America. He  enjoys adventure travel, photography and history.  He and his Canadian wife love to travel and climb mountains together.

Guillermo Montoya, General Guide

Luis Gonzalez,
General Guide

Luis leads Walking Tours and Antigua Market Culture and Cuisine Tours for Due South and loves to work with families who travel with their kids. He is a recent university graduate in Tourism, and can guide you around Antigua or the rest of Guatemala. Luis is from Jocotenango originally and speaks Spanish, English, a little German, and loves to share his passion and knowledge with the travelers that he meets. In his free time he is learning to dance salsa and bachata.

Luis Gonzalez, General Guide

David Alínan,
General Guide

David has been leading clients through the villages of Lake Atítlan for three years with Due South, but has been a lifelong resident of the lake and has ten years of tourism experience. David has Maya Kaqchikel heritage and also speaks Spanish and English. He organizes amazing hiking and bird watching trips, and loves to photograph the birds that he spots, including the elusive Quetzal! David enjoys a locally grown cup of coffee and in his free time, he is home with his wife (also a tour guide), and his son, born May 2022.

David Alinan, General Guide

Cristina Solis,
General Guide

Cristina has been leading Walking Tours and Antigua Market Culture and Cuisine Tours for Due South since 2019. She is a resident of Antigua and mom to three daughters. She also is a Spanish teacher and loves having walking tour guests who like to practice their Spanish with her! She is a general guide and has led tours throughout Guatemala in Spanish and English, and she's learned some basic German too!

Cristina Solis, General Guide

Melvin Lopez,
Community Guide, Iximche

Melvin has been a community guide at the Iximche Archaeological Park for over 10 years. He is originally from Tecpán and is part of the Maya Kaqchikel ethnic group, and loves to share his heritage with tourists from all over the world. Melvin's first language is Kaqchikel and he also speaks fluent Spanish and English. He has studied extensively to cover courses after his university degree, including tourism, the Mayan calendar and the Mayan numeration system. He spends his free time with his wife and two children.

Melvin Lopez, Community Guide

Jose Maria and Gustavo Rivas,
Private Drivers

Jose Maria and Gustavo are two brothers from Guatemala City who started their own transportation company, offering private car service to clients throughout Guatemala. Driving for Due South since early 2021, they are a hugely integral part of the team, and love practicing their beginner English with their international passengers! Jose Maria loves cooking when not driving, and Gustavo is a dad of two cats!

Gustavo and Jose Maria Rivas, drivers
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