Before moving (temporarily) to El Salvador, there was one phrase I heard over and over, from strangers and friends alike:
El Salvador, after all, has a gritty, dangerous reputation, especially in the U.S. where you can hardly Google the country without breaking out in hives. Sample headlines describe it as “murder capital of the world,” and lament “life under gang rule.” The majority of U.S. media coverage of El Salvador centers on migration and thus focuses on the country as a place of poverty, crime and desperation.
Several people, this summer, actually urged me not to come — for my safety.
Now, after living here more than three months, I still hear that phrase from people back home all the time, despite trying to show so many wonderful aspects of the country.
Yes, it’s actually spring here in El Salvador, but my brain still thinks of the calendar on U.S. terms. This year, like the last, I’m vicariously experiencing fall through social media — photos of turning leaves and added layers and Halloween parties.
My birthday, usually an autumn affair, was spent at the beach (not complaining). Instead of Halloween, I’ll again be celebrating Día de los Muertos, Day of the Dead, later this month.
This fall playlist probably combines those two sentiments — the effervescent, ever-summer feel of Latin America and the moodiness and wistfulness that sinks in with the later U.S. months. OK, there’s probably more “moody” than “bounce” in this one, so maybe draw a hot bath for your listen.
As always, it’s arranged to be played in order, but shuffle if you must (and know that I judge every shuffler among us).
Sadly, my vision for this pose was lacking. Already, I had been instructed to move a leg, stretch an elbow, lift my chin.
I shoved my hands in my back pockets for effect, pushing my hips toward the shot and twisting my face and body into a position not even a yoga instructor would suggest. There were a couple loud pops. I wondered how many massages it would take me to reset — surely more than the $50 I was earning from this 4.5-hour session could redeem.
If you’re reading this, you probably already know that my name is Amelia, that I am a solo female traveler and that I have been exploring Central America for more than a year.
What you might not know is some of the specifics — how I began my journey, what exactly I do for work and how I make a living in this crazy life.
Recently, I asked you all to send me questions, and send you did!
In fact, I received so many queries that I plan to make this mailbag a series — upcoming mailbags will be focused more specifically around the logistics of my travel, how I address health and safety, and what I love about where I am now.
But for now, let’s begin with some of the basics: who I am and what I do.
Here are some of those questions I receive most often:
I remember my first several months as a nomad, viscerally. I use the word “viscerally” because I can almost, now, feel the caustic taste of the anxiety that took over on most days. Honestly, most days.
At the time, I was so confused. That feeling took me by complete surprise. I had traveled solo a lot, and I was finally doing what I had long dreamt of doing.
But what I was feeling, I now realize, was the result of the systematic demolishment of every normalcy in my life — from how I showered and got dressed in the morning, to how my days progressed to where my food came from at night. My job had changed, my house had changed, my network had changed, my belongings had changed, my whole life had changed.
I had almost zero routine.
I had gone from a person who set the alarm before 5 a.m., hit the gym almost every day and scheduled life around a series of meetings, deadlines, happy hours and events to someone who had nowhere to be, no one to be with and was suddenly working in a job without any outside framework or direction.
As the sun settled into the hills behind the twin bell towers of the broad, white Iglesia Santa Lucia, the town came alive.
Candles, encased by glass lanterns in all shades of color, alit the adjacent park and town square, casting golden highlights on strolling silhouettes, on a child’s bouncing coif as she frolicked, on the underbelly of the almond tree branches.
It was Día de los Farolitos — that is, day of the lanterns — and I was not where I was supposed to be. Actually, nothing about the weekend had gone as planned.