Live Inspired: I was a model for a day; this is what it was like

• In partnership with John Reamer and Associates

I twisted from behind to face the camera.

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.

The photographer eyed me.

“Si,” he said. “Muy natural.”

Against all odds and likelihood, I was … a model.

Live Inspired mailbag: who I am, what I do, how I make money

• In partnership with John Reamer and Associates

Hello!

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:

Visiting El Mozote: behind the scenes of my reporting

I had read a lot about El Mozote, about this horrible chapter of Salvadoran history and U.S. complicity. Then, I went — and felt the bullet holes, smelled the earth, saw the tears. Here’s what it felt like.

I glared the at the Google map as we got closer.

I stretched and shrunk my screen, checking the estimated arrival time again. I tapped my notebook and looked out the window. The surrounding pueblos faded to pastures and morro groves. The mountains of Morazán looked gray in the distance.

I was anxious.

I was high up in the hills of El Salvador, but I was heading toward a piece of my history. Well, both of our histories. My companion Luis and I were nearing the site of the greatest civilian massacre in modern Latin American history — a three-day horror in which his people were killed … and my government helped.

Live Inspired: in the lack of normalcy, this is my routine

• In partnership with John Reamer and Associates

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.

Live Inspired: at last, los farolitos and magic

• In partnership with John Reamer and Associates

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.

Live Inspired: 10 things I learned after one year as a nomad

• In partnership with John Reamer and Associates

In many ways, it feels like my journey as a nomad has only just begun. But that day in late June when I packed up my backpack and left my old house in Minneapolis? That feels like CENTURIES ago, some black-and-white movie I once watched.

The last 14 months have been an exercise in almost complete change — I sold everything, left all that I knew and charged into an indefinite journey of solo travel. To do that, I had to unlearn how to live, how to think, how to operate, and then calculate and build a new normal in a totally new existence.

After more than a year as a nomad traveling mostly through Central America, here’s what I learned:

Live Inspired: first impressions in El Salvador

• In partnership with John Reamer and Associates

The shrill, happy notes reverberated through Plaza Libertad, drawing a crowd of a couple dozen, and me — invited by the music and the gleaming red upright bass.

A woman, wearing a bright pink apron and holding a matching ladle, spooned atol — a sweet corn drink — into styrofoam cups to serve. Two other women had staked out territory in front of the little five-piece band and were dancing as though it was their jobs (it might have been; they later worked the crowd for tips). 

I whipped out my iPhone, as I always do, with a wave of reluctance. The nature of my job, these days, is to record what’s around me, but documenting other people in other places, especially as a white person, isn’t always popular. I’ve often stopped photographing because I absorb the glares around me. In more than a handful of cases, I’ve actually gotten visceral rebukes.

But on this glorious Friday afternoon, as I eyed the assembly, all I caught were smiles.